Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance, You Are Awesome!!!

More Than “Just Okay”


Dear Teacher,

I have a feeling that you are like me.  You are a decent teacher, but sometimes you have moments of sheer teaching genius.  You have times where everything that you touch turns to teaching gold.  Those times are few and fleeting, but they happen.

We also have those fortunately fleeting flickers of time when the opposite happens.  Everything you touch turn to teaching…well, you know what I mean.

We tend to get hung up on those two extremes.  We either look back at those hours of  greatness and wonder how to get back to them, or we beat ourselves up for the seconds of eternal not-so-greatness and try to figure out how to avoid them forever.

What we miss more than too often are the times in-between.  The every day situations.  The times when things work out just okay.

I think that the “just okays” are more important than everything else.

Why?

Because the “just okays” are what we do as teachers.

Huh?

I won’t go into it again today, but yesterday I reminded us all of all the things that we deal with as teachers every minute of every day.  We have a lot working against us.  There are a mountain of issues that we have to climb each and every day.  It is almost like we are set up to fail most days.

But we don’t fail.

Somehow we survive.

More than that…

Somehow we are able to teach, reach, and help students become learners and better people.

The every day “just okays” are how we do this.

The awesomeness of what we do happens in the daily grind of teaching.  We have a sense of what needs to be done, what we need to do to get it done, and ability to somehow get this things done.

Everyday we just have to have faith that we know the right things…and we step out in that faith.  Somehow, when all is said and done, we find that we were usually right with the choices that we made in our classroom day-to-day.

The steps of faith are what make up okay days.  The cool thing is that those kind of days add up.  Over time, we can look back and see that we are, just maybe, a little better than “just okay.”

Another result of the pressing on in faith to make days okay also help us do something else pretty cool.  Over time, the “okay days” also often lead to those moments of grandeur and away from of the moment of lack-of-grandeur.  The more okay that we have, the more great days tend to build up and we have longer periods of time between the terrible, horrible, no good, really bad days.

I am reminded of a scene from one of the best movies ever, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Indiana has to trust his interpretation of clues that he is chasing.  He stands over a huge chasm.  He thinks he know what to do.  His father’s life is in the balance.  He has to trust what he thinks is right.  Do I need to point out the connections to the “just okay” days?  I think you get it!  Anyway, watch this clip.

“Just okay” is not a bad thing.

“Just okay” is not an awful goal.

“Just okay” means you are doing something right.

So what does this mean for you and me?  We need to daily have faith in ourselves.  We know what to do.  We have that teacher instinct of what the right thing is.  We just need to do it.  Day after day.  Week after week.  All of our “okay” will be our greatness.  It proves our awesomeness.

You really are awesome!  Your gut is usually right.  Trust it.  Take daily steps of faith.  Your “okay” is more than just okay.  You’ve got this.  You are making a difference!  Keep going and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

 

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Posted in General Inspiration, Get Psyched!, Hope for Teachers, Mondays, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance, Theme Song, You Are Awesome!!!

[Sometimes Teachers Have to Be] Titanium


Dear Teacher,

How was your weekend?  I know a lot of teachers are coming off of or going into Fall Break, if they are lucky enough to have that where they teach.  Mine is this week, so I am starting a three-day school week.

So how are  you doing this year?  From talking to people and my feedback through the blog, it sounds like many teachers are having a rough year.  What about you?  How is it going?

This year has been good, rough, and just plain interesting for me.  I don’t think you would believe half of the stories that I can already tell just from the 2014-2015 school year.  I can tell you that I am worn out, tired, and a little beat-up.  I know that I am making progress with my students, don’t get me wrong, I am just exhausted.

I have a feeling that you might just feel the same way.  For that reason, today’s post will be a special one.  I haven’t done one of these in a long while, but I think it is time to dust off the Theme Song Post.

If you are new to this blog, you might be wondering, “What is that?”

I pick a theme song for you to listen to while you read the rest of the post.  I hope that it serves as a theme song for your day or week.  It usually sticks with me for the whole week when I do these.

Anyway, click play and then read on…

Teacher, you do one of the most noble, yet challenging, jobs in the entire world.

Unfortunately, it feels more challenging that noble most of the time.

First of all, you work with a room full of students everyday (or several groups of students throughout each day).  That is a challenge in of it self.  You have to know your students.  You have to know what they need.  You have to figure out how to get them to work together.  You have to get them to learn how to learn.  You have to teach them specific content.  You have to…well, you get the point.  This would be a list the size of the internet if I put everything that you need to do on this level of teaching.

Add to that, you have to deal with student issues, behaviors, and struggles.  You have students with bad days.  You have students who don’t get along.  You have students who have IEPs.  You have students that are ESOL.  You have students with BIPs.  You have students that come from environments that do not reinforce what you are teaching.  You have students who are lacking the skills with which they should have had before getting to you.  You have students who need to learn some social skills that are lacking.  You have students who can’t sit still.  You have students on multiple levels of abilities.  You have students who don’t care.  You have students that care too much.  You have a thousand other specifics here.  You have more than a handful of things to think about besides what you teach at any given moment.

On top of all of this, you have voices and critics from the outside.  There is administration telling you how to teach and not teach.  You have teams and other teachers giving advice on how you can better reach your students.  You have parents giving you feedback on what they feel like you are doing wrong.  You have district level people changing the expectations for you left and write.  You have the state making curriculum changes that wildly affect the students that sit in your classroom.  You have an ever changing landscape of standards to muddle through.  You have the world of education with the ever-growing list of best practices, current theories/strategies, and 21st century skills that you just have to incorporate into your classroom and instruction.  You have a million different directions that you are being asked to go everyday.

And then there is you.

All alone.

In your classroom.

With your students.

And you are awesome.

In all of this, you chose to have one focus, and one focus only.

Your students.

You know that it is those young minds that matter most.

And you make it work.

You do everything that you can do to protect your students from all of the other stuff.  You are the umbrella that covers them.  You are the shield.  You are their cover from the mess all around them and you.

Teacher, you try your best to be bullet-proof.

But it is not for you,; it is for them.

I want to encourage you, friend.  You are doing the right thing by focusing on the students before all else.  You are making good choices.  You are making a difference.

I know that it is hard.  It is really, really, really hard sometimes.  But keep going.  Keep fighting.  Keep doing what you do.

It is difficult to be made of titanium, but sometimes you have to be.  I know that you know that it will be worth it for those students sitting in your desks in your room.  Don’t give up.  Don’t stop.  You are an amazing teacher!  I mean that.  I really do!

You are so awesome!  You don’t always feel that way, but it is so very true.  You do what needs to be done for students.  This is why you are a great teacher.  Don’t forget that!  Never stop!  Keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note from Student, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance, Picture Note, Poster/Graphic, Thank You!, You Are Awesome!!!

(Unspoken) Words from Your Students


Dear Teacher,

You are amazing.  You know that, right?  You give your students what they need before they need it.  Almost like magic!

You work hard.  You make choices for the best that students disagree with.  You are patient.  You are kind.  You are nice.  Even when you don’t feel like you can be.

You will seldom be thanked…especially by the toughest of students.

They will appreciate what you have done and are doing…one day.

They do not always have the words now to tell you.

So…this note is for you.  Here are the words (unspoken) that your students aren’t ready or can’t say yet.  They are still true.

Take them to heart.  Be encouraged.  Let a smile rise to your lips.  It is okay.  You can feel the pride.  You deserve it!

(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher) ... oh, and this was made using www.piktochart.com, check them out if you want to make cool infograpics!
(c)DearTeacherLT2014 (You may use the image if you link back to the blog and/or give credit to Dear Teacher/Love Teacher) … oh, and this was made using http://www.piktochart.com, check them out if you want to make cool infograpics!

Don’t give up!  Do all that you do and keep doing it well.  Keep on teaching, Teacher!  You are AWESOME!

Love, Teacher

PS…Pass this one one to a teacher that you know needs to hear this!  Also, please comment with a story about a time a student has been able to thank you for your hard work for them.  🙂

Posted in General Inspiration, Get Psyched!, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance, Teaching Power, You Are Awesome!!!

Do What You Do…


Dear Teacher,

Today, step out in faith.  You know your students.  You know what they know, need to know, and how to get from point A to point B.  This is what you do.  This is who you are.  You are a teacher.  You teach.  And you’re good at it, I might add.

I know, I know.  There are a lot of voices.  There are a lot of expectations.  There are a lot of opinions, best practices, and researched-based strategies.  But…you are the one that knows what you do best and what your students need from you.

I am not saying do not try what you learn in PD, from books, and the latest post from Edutopia.  By all means, try strategies and ideas to make your teaching better.  BUT, I am saying, be guided in your decisions by the one thing you have that is better than anyone else’s ideas or opinions…knowledge of your students.

You know what you need to do.  You know what resources you need to seek out.  You know what needs to be tried for the sake of your students.  You are the key to it all.

Be confident.  Take a stand for what needs to happen in your classroom.  Do what needs to be done.  Advocate for your students and teach the way that they need you to teach.

Will you have to defend yourself?  Yes.

Will you have to take a little flack?  Of course.

Will you be worn out, beat up, and beat down?  Probably.

Will it be worth it?  Eventually…and you may not see the payoff yourself.
Why do it then?  Because you are a teacher and this is what you do.  You care for your students.  You want them to reach their potential.  You are willing to pour yourself out for your students.

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Teacher, you know how to teach YOUR students.  Teach them well.  Do not be afraid to teach the way that needs to be taught.  You’ve got this!

You are awesome!  You know what to do.  Do it.  Teach your heart out today and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers, Pep Talk, Perseverance

It’s Go Time…


Dear Teacher,

Movie break.  This one of my favorite scenes from the movie Tommy Boy.  Give it a quick watch and then read.  I promise, there is a point.  

“Why did I just watch this?”

I will be honest, when I went to write, I had this idea of writing about Monday being “Go Time” for teachers and I went looking for the scene when it was said in this movie.  However, watching the clip brought a message to mind for me that I need to hear (even if it is hearing it from myself).  This clip has a lot to do with teaching.

So often we feel like things are going well in a class or all of our classes.  We have done all of the right things, as far as we know.  We are using the best strategies.  We are integrating.  We are differentiating.  We are rigorizing (yes, I just made up a word).  We are doing everything a teacher should be doing…then…

BOOM!

Something hits us out of left field and destroys the classroom peace and joy that we thought we had.  It could be a student meltdown.  It could be a parent issue.  I could be an administration situation.  It could be a number of things that suddenly send us in a tailspin and weave us all over our little teaching road.

Before we know it we are in a fight for our teaching lives.

Then the chaos dies down.

We survived.

The dust settles.

Blame gets assigned.

Usually, the fight is with ourselves.  What did we do wrong?  What could we have done different?  Why did we not think of the issue that happened?  So on and so on and so on.

Sometimes the fight is with others.  A power struggle with students.  A disagreement with parents.  An accusation from administration or other teachers.

Who ever the fight is with, it usually starts at the blame game.

The part of the scene that hits me the most is when Tommy said, “I am trying my best.  I am not my dad.”

How often do we feel that way?  Okay, probably not the “dad” part, but we do compare ourselves to others, especially to the teachers that seem to make being a great teacher look easy.

When we get to that point where we feel like we can’t do better than we are because we are trying “our best” is when we need to pause, take a deep breath, and think before we act. 

This is where we are most defensive.  Because of that, we are also at the point when we can be the most stupid.  In this movie scene there was a literal fight.  But in teaching we can make bad choices when we feel this way…choices we may regret later.

Our “go time” needs to be different.

We need to make choices that will help and not hurt the situation.  Choices that we can learn from.  Choices that our students will see and learn from.  Choices that will help us not get to this point in the future.

Sorry for the vagueness here, but every has different situations and triggers that get us to this point in teaching on any given day.

Luckily, the solutions are pretty much the same for most scenarios.  

There are some steps to take to help us get in the right state of mind.

  1. Like I said, pause and breathe.  Most of the time, reacting immediately leads to those poor choices mentioned.
  2. Remind yourself that it is not as bad as it feels.  In the moment, things are blown out of proportion.  You need to keep them in perspective…even if the other person/people isn’t/aren’t.  When everything is sorted out in the end, you never regret having kept thing in perspective…but you almost always regret not doing this.
  3. Remember why you teach.  When the going gets tough, it is easy to forget that you actually love teaching.  Look for the silver lining or just remember that teaching is your passion…the little hiccups to teaching are always short and small in the long run.
  4. Take as much time as you can.  Delay making a decision or action on the situation as long as you can.  Be like the Ents in Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  The Ents are tree-based characters and they are known for the lack of moving quickly.  They try to never be hasty.  One of their leaders, Treebeard, said in the book The Two Towers, “But I spoke hastily. We must not be hasty. I have become too hot. I must cool myself and think; for it is easier to shout stop! than to do it.”  When you move to quickly, your choices lead to more.  Stop and stay stopped before you move.  It really is much easier to say stop than actually do it once you are moving.
  5. Put the students and their needs first.  When you come to decision time, focus on the student/students.  What do they need most from the situation.  How can you turn a negative into a positive for them.

If you try to take these steps, your “go time” will be well thought out and meaningful in the end for all that are involved.

Teacher, things come up.  We face hard times.  Never forget that you love teaching, and the hard times never last forever.  The tough things will pass eventually.  Keep on teaching your teaching best, even in spite of the difficulties sometimes.

You are so awesome!  I know that the challenges don’t keep you down long.  I know that with every “go time” you have you get better and better at doing them well.  I sincerely hope that you have the best day ever!  Never give up and always keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher

Posted in Challenge, Change the World Challenge, Choose Positive, General Inspiration, Hope For Students, Hope for Teachers, Note to Teachers

Sometimes it only takes one…


Dear Teacher,

We all have good days.  We all have bad days.  Most of the time the days are somewhere in between.

The worst, though, are the days that are great…until…that one student.  That one attitude.  That one event.  And the apple cart is overturned.

We don’t like to talk about it, but we all know that it happens.  One student, one administrator, one parent, or one situation…and our day turns south quickly.

Good days become bad days.  Mediocre days become awful days.  And bad days become the worst day ever.

Our attitudes are soured.  Our teaching becomes less effective.  We stop wanting to deal with people altogether.  And it only takes one thing to cause this.

Admit it, you know what I am talking about.

It is human nature.  It happens.  We deal with it.  We struggle to get better at not letting it happen the next time.  We do get better the longer we teach…but it still happens sometimes.

I don’t have a solution here…but I want to use this as a jumping off point.  One negative thing can turn our days negative.

Our students are people just like us.  And, like us, sometimes it only takes one thing to change their day.

Sometimes it only takes one…

  • smile to make a bad day into a better day.
  • kind word to make a mediocre day a good day
  • little time and attention to make a good day a great day.

One bad thing can make a day worse, but sometimes it only takes a good thing to make a day better.

We have no idea what our students experience from day to day.  We don’t really know what is going on at home.  We don’t know what happened on the bus.  We don’t know what they are always feeling.  We can’t control this.

However, we can control the experience we give our kids from us.

I am not talking about every thing in our classroom right now, I am just talking about trying to do one thing.  One positive for every student you can get one to.  Who knows if that one thing can be a catalyst to brightening up their day!

If you are elementary, try to reach each student in you class with a few positives today.  If you are middle or high school, try to reach each student with a couple of positives over a few days…and then start to cycle again.

It is hard some days…but you can do it.  I can do it.  We can be those “ones” that turn a day around (in a good way).

I know you can do it!  Are you willing to take the challenge?

Elbert Hubbard Quote

You are so awesome!  I know that you try to be positive every day…so keep going.  Try to give as many “ones” as you can today.  The more seed that you plant, the more is likely to grow.  Keep up those positives and keep on teaching, Teacher!

Love, Teacher