Are We There Yet? Exhaustion and Last Days…


Dear Teacher,

It is drawing ever nearer to the last days of school (if you aren’t already there).  You are tired.  No…strike that.  You are completely and utterly exhausted.  This school year has done you in.  You are so done with all of the chaos and drama.

And you deserve to feel that way…it has been a TOUGH year.

You have made it through, but only barely.

The last weeks and days of school are a light at the end of the tunnel, and you feel like your students do right before the buses come.  You are just watching that clock.

Image Source: Wikimedia (Wikipedia)

You keep waiting for the seconds to tick down.  And they feel slow incredibly slow.  Why can’t it just be over.  You need it to be over.

Let me remind you, it is almost time.  You are almost there.

You need this summer…and summer’s coming, friend.  Summer is coming!

It is okay that you’re worn out right now.  If you weren’t, I would be worried that there is something wrong with you or if you might actually be a superhero…or alien…or both.  This year has been rough, and you should be tired in every way shape and form.

And for this reason, it is also okay to be excited about your coming “break” – even with all of the work you have to do eventually over the summer…it still counts as a break.  You get to recharge.  You get to relax.  You get to unwind from the stress of this year.

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

You have done well this year, my Teacher Friend.  You have made a difference this year, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.  You have earned the right to look forward to the summer.  You have my permission to watch the clock.  🙂

You are an amazingly awesome teacher!  You will always be.  Enjoy the rest of the year!  Keep on clock-watching…errr…I mean teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

 

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A Call for Help – Let’s Raise Our Teacher Voices


Dear Teacher,

I have been working on this letter to you in my head for over a week.  I just haven’t been sure what to say.  Today I decided the best way to start is just begin.  Pretty easy, really.

So I have a pretty big podcast addiction.  I love listening to them.  I really like shows that cause me to think.  And because of this, last week I heard something that has inspired me.

There is a choral composer/conductor, Eric Whitacre, who had an idea.  He put one of his songs out on the internet and gave a call on Youtube for people to sing their parts on video and send them to him.  With this, he posted a silent video of him conducting the song.  He had a huge response and put together a video of his “Virtual Choir.”  This is the first video…

There has been subsequent “Virtual Choir Concerts,” and with each one the response is bigger and bigger.  The latest have had thousands of singers from around the world.

Think about that.  Thousands of people from around the planet singing one song together.

And it is beautiful.

Very beautiful.

And I am not just talking about the songs.  They are beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but the most beautiful thing about this is the thought.  People with a shared passion from different countries, different cultures, and different views all joining together for one song.  One thought.  One idea.  Beautiful.

This got me thinking.  Is there an application to this idea in education?  Can educators from around the country and even around the world come together and have one voice?  One message about something?  One heart and one passion?  And how would we share it?

The more I think about it, the more ideas I have, but it keeps coming back to the question, “What is our one thing as educators?”

And it hit me…we do have something beautiful to share.

This something is so beautiful that it might just change what people think about education…and maybe the way that the education system is viewed and legislated.

That beautiful thing is our students growth and change throughout the year.  It is our stories of the magic that happens in the classroom.  It is the knowledge of the changes that happen in the lives of our school kids when teaching and learning happens through hard work and relationships.  It is in sharing those amazing things that we see happen between day one and the last day of a school year.

We need to share these things.  We need to talk about them.  The world needs to hear them.

These are the things that cannot be standardized.  They do not show up on a test.  They cannot be measured.  They can not be quantified.

This is our song.

Let’s sing it together!

I want to start collecting stories.  I want to hear your voice and share it with the world.  Will you help me?

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

For now, I am going to collect the stories in written form via the contact form at the bottom of the post.  I may eventually move to video and/or audio format…but baby steps.  Lets start here.

What do you think?  Are you in?

So here is all you need to do.  I want to hear one of your magical classroom stories about student change and growth.  You know, those stories that you hold dear and that keep you going.  Tell the story how ever you would like.  Just remember to change names to protect privacy.  I will share the stories here.  Just let me know if you want to be kept anonymous or if I can share your name.  The contact form is at the bottom of the post.

Oh, you can share as many stories as you’d like…and please share this post far and wide so I can get as many stories as I can!

This is going to be awesome!  You are awesome.  I can’t wait to hear your stories!  You are an amazing teacher and I know that there are some beautiful things that have happened in your classroom.  Keep making those beautiful things happen and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Trial run…leave a story via Google Voicemail: (864) 660-3858).

 

 

An Open Letter to Teachers…Don’t Lose Hope


(c)DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2013 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

Dear Teacher,

You are beat up and beat down.  You are worn out.  You are worn down.  This has been one of the toughest and roughest years of your career.

You don’t know if you can do this anymore.

Somewhere in and through the stress of students, parents, administration, and the system, you have lost sight of why you are doing this.  You don’t see the difference you intended to make.  You can’t see the forest.  You can’t see the trees.  You only see dwindling patience, one more student that doesn’t have a pencil, and another email about lesson plans that you haven’t turned in yet.

You are at the end of your rope and it is becoming more and more tempting to just let go.

You are losing your grip.

While you contemplate how much the fall will hurt, can I just tell you something…well, a few somethings?

First thing that you need to know is that you are absolutely, one hundred and fifty percent not alone.  More teachers feel this way this year than don’t, I think.  It is a common thought and feeling.

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

Even if it doesn’t fee like it, other teachers are going through exactly what you are right now.  Probably other teachers in your school…most likely the teacher in the room next door.

I know it is kind of messed up that a lot of teachers are in the same boat…but at least you don’t have to be alone in this.

And that is great, but what do we do about it?

We need to remember that the education system is not why we got into this business…we went through the trouble of becoming a teacher because we actually care about students and their future.  The system is what is wearing us out, but the students are who are keep us in.

Unfortunately, we are bound by the system.  How do we work within it to make the biggest difference in the lives of those learners in our classrooms?

I think it all comes down to spending a bit of time before each school day remembering why we teach.  It means thinking about each student (or some of them each day, if you teach multiple classes).  We have to remember that each of those souls are people and that we actually care about them and where they are going in life.

If we do that, it will lead us to think more carefully about our decisions in the classroom.  We will be driven to take stands for what is best for students.  We will fight for what is right.  We will truly differentiate for each child and what they need from us.

As that happens, our teacher heart will start to beat again.  We will find our passion again for teaching.  We will be ready to change the world all over again.

I know this is all easier said than done, but I think it is time we start doing what we know needs to be done.  I think it is time to be brave and bold…for our students good and for ours.

You are a TEACHER!  You actually do know what you are doing most of the time.  You know your students and care about their lives.  You know how to make classroom decisions.  You are courageous!  You are strong!  You are intelligent!  You matter to the future of your students and you are making a difference!

Remember why you do what you do and that you are not alone in this.  Be brave and do what needs to be done.  You will be happier in the long-run because you are doing what are made for!

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

DearTeacherLT2016 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

You are amazing!  You are awesome!  Thank you for all that you do!  Remember that you can do anything for a year, and this year is almost done.  You’ve got this!  Don’t give up!  Keep on persevering and keep on teaching, Teacher!  You rock!

Love, Teacher

Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes


Dear Teacher,

I know that is has been a long time since I have written to you.  It has been quite a school year, and I am entering a time of transition.  Before I get to that, let’s talk about this past year.

How did it turn out for you?  How did everything go?  If you are reading this, you made it out alive, so that is something.  🙂

Image: http://www.firstgradenest.com/

It was quite a year for me.  There is not one word to describe it.  It was challenging.  It was trying.  It was stressful.  It was enlightening.  It was strange.  It was insightful.  It was life-changing.  It was.  It just was.

I don’t know that I had a more difficult year with students.  It wasn’t their behavior so much as it was their attitude towards learning.  In a time when the stakes could not be higher for students to show growth, it seemed like my students were the least interested in growing.  Was it like that for you this year?

That made teaching rough.  I believe in students having the responsibility of learning and turning that responsibility over to them throughout the year.  So many did not want to take those reigns from me.  My classroom was student-centered, but I found that I wound up in the center so many times just to get through content.

I learned a lot about motivating students and a lot about motivating myself.  How do I keep going with the idea of being brain-centered and student-centered when it seems like I am gaining so little ground.  I learned to keep my head down and keep going down the road and trusting what I know is right for my students…but it was hard.  Very hard.  That is one of the reasons that I wrote so little to you this year.

But I made it.

You made it.

We made it!

I want to encourage you, Teacher.  If it was a hard year for you, as it was for me, there is hope.  You can do anything for a year and then you can look forward to the next.  You know what is right for your students, even if they do not.  Take some time and reflect this summer.  What went right?  What went wrong?  Where do you need to dig in and keep going?  What are some things you can let go of next year?

Keep on keeping on.  Do what you know is right.  Take a stand for what needs to be stood up for.  Be the awesome teacher that you are.

Not every year will go well.  Sometimes there will be a string of bad years.  Sometimes your working environment will be challenging.  Sometimes you will want to pack it in.

Remember one thing, though.

Your students need you.  They really do.

If you keep doing what is right, day after day and year after year, things will eventually go right for you in ways that you know you are going in the right direction.  Trust me.

wpid-storagesdcard0MemesAwesome-High-School-Teacher.jpg.jpg

A little about my life and transitions…

After nine years of trying to be the best teacher that can be at a Title I school and having strings of difficult years, there has been a change.  My hard work was noticed.  I was hired to work at my district’s science center.  I will be moving out of the traditional classroom and be teaching students from all over my district and my area throughout the year.

It was difficult to pack up and leave my school for good after being there for so long…there were some tears…but I know that this is right.  I am going to love every minute of my new job and I will be able to help more students fall in love with learning and help other teachers learn new ways to foster that love in students, too.

That being said, that leaves this blog in a state of flux.  I need a little feedback here.

Since I will no longer be in the normal classroom, will you still accept my encouragement and advice here?  How can I stay current with the struggles that you have in your classroom?  How can I change the format of the blog to help you stay encouraged?

One thing I know that I can do is offer for you to email and let me know of a struggle in the classroom you are having.  I can write directly to what you are going through here (keeping out any personal information).  Would that be a helpful aspect to this blog?  (My email is dearteacher@outlook.com.)

Let me know any ideas that you have!  Thanks!

Teacher, take some time for yourself this summer.  Find ways to recharge and heal from the year.  Don’t spend too much time getting ready for the next round.  Just be for a while.  Just be.

Image: http://www.teachjunkie.com

You are so awesome!  I know that next year will be even better than this one was!  Keep on doing what is right and keep on teaching, teacher!

Love, Teacher

It’s Grow Time


Dear Teacher,

Happy New Year!  And so a new one begins, huh?  I am not sure what this school year has been like for you so far, but you have a fresh start to the second half.  What are you going to do with it?

Image: Wikipedia

I can’t help but think of a new year as a seed.  It is something that is up to you on how it will grow.  Like I teach my students whenever I teach my unit on plants, seeds stay dormant until they have the right conditions to grow.

I moved into my current classroom and curriculum three years ago.  In one of the drawers, I have many as a science teacher, I found a bag of beans.  I had no idea how old they were and decided not to use them….until this year.

Image: Wikipedia

This year, I went a little “grow crazy” during the plant unit and tried to plant as much as I can using the big grow light set-up we have.  I remembered those seeds.  I did the germination in a damp paper towel thing, and despite the age of the seeds, they still germinated!

I planted them, watered them, and let time and nature do the rest.  As I said, I grew several things all at the same time.  I was disappointed that, though many things flowered, nothing came to fruit…or so I thought.

Another teacher came to observe in my room and we got talking about my plants and how the plants flowered by nothing else.  He knows a lot more about growing than I do, and he started looking through them.  And he found something…on the bean plants.  He found little bean pods.  Not only did they grow, they produced more seeds!  I was disappointed in the size until some students and I started looking through the plants and we found large bean pods!  It was a cool moment for this science teacher who is bad at growing stuff!

(c)DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

(c)DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

Though the beans were who-knows-how-old, they were still dormant and waiting for the right conditions to grow.

Why did I share this story?

Teacher, you may have had a rough school year.  Not much may seem to have happened for you or your students.  You may have seen nothing but seedlings so far…or worse, you just see empty soil.

Do not give up!

You have a fresh start coming up!

Your seeds may still just be dormant.

You just need the right conditions for growth!

I do not know what growth or the right conditions look like for you, but you do.  What will it take to make that happen?  What do you need?  What do you need to focus on?

Stop whining about what is going wrong this year and work on what is going right!  Give yourself and your students the light, water, and nutrients needed for growth!  Reflect, regroup, and regrow!

(c)DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

(c)DearTeacherLT2015 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher)

You can do it!

You know what it takes!

You have what it takes!

It time to get growing!

It is grow time, Teacher!

You are awesome and I know you have what it takes to get things growing this year.  You are an amazing teacher.  You are making a difference.  Don’t give up!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

A Message for the Voices…


Dear Teacher,

Today’s note is not so much for you.  Today I want to talk to the voices.  The voices that surround you.  The voices in your head.  The voices that are causing you to doubt what it is that you do.

Well, really, I only have two words for those voices today.  It is quite an easy message for them.

Shut up.

Stop talking for just today.  Your opinion is not needed.  Your thoughts do not matter.  You “knowledge” is not required.  Not today.  Not right now.

Okay.  Now I have some quick words for you, Teacher.  I mean these from the bottom of my heart.  Lets these words hang in your mind today as you ignore the voices.

  • You are doing a great job!
  • You are, really, a good teacher.
  • The students are listening…even if you can’t tell yet.
  • The time that you are taking to do all that you do is worth it…especially taking the time set up quality experiences for those kids in your classroom.
  • You are reaching them…even the toughest ones.
  • What you are doing matters…you matter…so much more than it feels like sometimes.
  • Keep going.  The hard work will pay off.
  • The students may be reluctant, but don’t give up.  You are getting through.
  • Your instincts are right, trust them.
  • You are awesome, and I mean really, truly awesome.

Teacher, the voices sometimes matter.  However, it is okay to take a break from them and celebrate what you are doing right.  Let today be one of those days.  Let the voices be quiet to your heart today and then look around and feel good about the good that you are doing.  It is okay to be proud of yourself.  Do that today.  See what is going well and feel good about it.  It is okay.

Make today a day about seeing how good of a teacher you are.  There are enough days for seeing what you need to improve on.  Don’t look at those issues….not today.  Choose to only see the positive today.

You can do it.

Remember…quiet the voices and only hear “Good job.”

You are amazing.  You are awesome!  I am proud of you!  I believe in you!  Good job!  Now, keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

So, You’ve Had a Week from…Well, You Know…



 

Dear Teacher,

If you are like a lot of other teachers that I have talked to this week, you may have just had a pretty rough week.  It was pretty mediocre for me, but I have had a bad week or two recently, as well.

Fridays of bad weeks can be good and bad.  They are great because the week is over.  They really stink because you have to take stock of the week and figure out what went wrong.

If the week was bad enough, we probably lost our cool and did some things that we aren’t quite proud of…poor reactions, poor choices, etc…  Fridays like that are even worse.  We have to deal with the week and deal with ourselves.  Never, ever, ever fun.

So, for those that had a long week, let’s have a theme song post.  Click play and then read on.

Teacher, your job is hard.

You have so much to deal with every day.

It seems like the days that go bad, go bad in almost every way possible.

One bad day can lead into another…and another…and before you know it, you have had a bad week.

Bad weeks happen.  They happen to the best and worst of us.  They bring out the worst in us…but don’t forget, they also bring out the best of us.

“What do you mean, teacher-who-obviously-did-not-have-a-bad-week?”

I know that you don’t want to think about it today, at the end of your awful week, but bad days and weeks teach us more than the good ones.

  • We learn what doesn’t work.
  • We learn what some of our “triggers” are.
  • We learn what we need to avoid.
  • We learn that the students may nor have learned as we thought they did.

Not only that, weeks after bad weeks always seem to help us get stronger as a teacher.  We dig in, we find a way to keep moving and keep going, and we find ways to try to avoid weeks like we just had.

  • We learn new strategies because we had to work so hard just to get through the week.
  • We learn that we had resources that we did not know that we had.
  • We learn that we are stronger than we thought we were.
  • We learn that we have students that cared about our bad weeks (when they come and say that they are glad the next week is going better for us).
  • We learn that we have colleagues that actually do care about us (even if it is just one or two).
  • We learn that we love teaching as much as we thought we did, even though we hated it the week before (the bad week).

There is a silver lining, Teacher.  Even if you don’t see it now, it is there.

It is okay to bemoan your bad week.  It is human.  Hate this week.  Wish it never happened.  Lick your wounds and do what you need to do, just don’t stay there.

Find the strength.  Find a way.  Move on.  Use this week to become the awesome teacher that you are and can be.

Bad weeks suck, but we need them.  You can get through this.

And never forget…you are not there for you.  You are at your school and in your classroom for your students.

They matter most.

They are your motivation to get through this.

You can do it.

You are awesome!  I know this week was bad, but you can and will keep moving.  Even in this horrible week, you made a difference…even if you don’t know it now.  Keep going.  Never give up.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher