Tag Archives: Colleagues

Remember Why You Are Here

When I was asked to complete a PLC or professional learning community with my academic team, I decided that at this time of the year, encouragement was the item most needed. We all have tests, projects, and new technological tools to try. We have students who break our hearts and challenge us to be better teachers. We are here daily for many different reasons. What are those reasons? They vary as the educator varies. Some work out of necessity. Some teach because it is their passion. Working to bring new ideas and concepts to young people makes their feet hit the floor in a happy dance. Some hope to move on to other aspects of the educational umbrella. Their current assignment is one of the steps in their pathway of life. Some hope to survive until retirement comes. Some teach because it’s all they desire to do. They have joy.

Synonyms for joy include delight or exuberance. Joy comes from within the heart and is not fleeting like happiness. Joy radiates in the face despite a tired smile and body with achy feet. Joy is not a mood but a mindset. I want to focus on why we became teachers. I want us to remember our first love of teaching and reminisce enough to regain a bit of that joy.

I picked up a book from my personal library at school titled Apples & Chalkdust: Inspirational Stories and Encouragement for Teachers. It was published in 1998, the same year my son was born. I was nowhere near a classroom at that point in my life and was perfectly content to stay at home raising my son. When August 1998 rolled around, that internal timer screamed, “It’s time for back to school!” That must explain why I bought the book. Periodically, I’ve stumbled through the pages, but today I was struck by the hope offered. I wanted to share a meaningful vignette from Ms. Caruana’s timely inspirational book.

“Love Your Job”

Ellen knew she wanted to be a teacher since the first grade. She could remember setting her bedroom up like a classroom and making her four siblings be the students.

Her first grade teacher, Mrs. Robinson, loved her students. They in turn loved her and loved to learn. Ellen wanted to instill that same love in others, so she became a teacher.

All agree that teachers don’t get paid enough. You have to be in it for more than money. You have to love to teach.

Ellen always felt on fire when she was teaching. When a lesson clicked, it was an exhilarating feeling.

Once in a while she’d give students a chance to teach the class. They knew the material well enough to make a presentation. Those who volunteered did so out of desire, not out of outside pressure. She could see future teachers among her students. She could see their love for learning.

So when the union couldn’t negotiate a higher raise or the budget was cut again and her materials were meager, she was still happy.

Ellen was doing what she loved, and she did it well.

Remember to teach from your heart, not from duty.

Takeaway: When you do what you love, you do it well, no matter the circumstances.¹

¹Caruana, Vicki. Apples & Chalkdust.Tulsa: Honor Books, 1998. Print.

Discussion Questions to Ponder:

  • Can you pinpoint what motivated you to be on the other side of the desk?
  • Who inspired you to take that step into the classroom?
  • What brings you joy in the classroom?
  • What brings you joy as a teacher?
  • What can you do to bring joy to yourself and others?
  • Why are you here? (Personal reflection)


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Looking to the Side

Years ago a wise pastor counseled his congregation about marriage. He said to take note of those who were running along side in the same direction. Perhaps a connection would blossom in that fashion.

As another month shows its face on the calendar, I am looking to the side as I am running along through the school year. I should say I think I am moving forward. I feel I am reacting far too often. If a student fails, I react with test corrections, retakes, and introspection. I feel responsible because a child hasn’t passed my course for the marking period. Some have legitimate learning problems. Some have learned to just get by on minimal power required. Fighting against students’ inertia drains my energy. When fatigue settles in around 7:00 P.M. each evening, I sigh, wash my face, and collapse into bed. Some nights I fall asleep in exhaustion only to joltingly awaken around midnight. Is it November already? How many days until Thanksgiving break? Too many! My colleagues faces still show the joy of being teachers; however, we could all use a little respite from the persistent problems and dramas. Twelve school days remain, but who’s counting?


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Some Young Men Who Made My Day

I was rather sluggish yesterday but managed to get to work on time before the rains hit. One of my co-workers gave me a Mother’s Day card; I nearly started crying because it was so sweet. I hugged him thank you. Yes, he is young enough to be my son, but he isn’t. I jokingly tell the students that he’s my younger brother. Some of them don’t believe me, but I think others do.  He has visited my classroom just to say hello; the kids adore him because he invests love, time, and energy into them by eating lunch with them on a daily basis. I’ve never done that except on special occasions.

Around the middle of the day I have my conference period and teaming period. We had nothing scheduled today due to progress reports coming up today. One of my team members saw some students working on their science assignment in the hall during a “gallery walk.” She teased them about being their favorite teacher. One of our shared students didn’t realize it was her talking and said, “Mrs. Johnson’s my favorite.” My friend stood arms akimbo and said, “Really?” He slid back around the corner where he was working. She told me, so I went out into the hallway just to smile at him and give the kids a hard time about not being everyone’s favorite. All I could see were sparkling eyes and a smile on his face. I didn’t need to hear it out loud myself because I already knew it even before he’d said it. His dad had emailed me a nice compliment that I am saving in my forever folder.

Later in the day after dealing with a student who has given up on himself and would rather be in the in-school-suspension room than in my classroom following my directives, my good mood had dropped down to so-so. At the beginning of my last class, one of my students in my afternoon class handed me a small envelope with my name on it. “It’s for Teacher Appreciation Day.”
“Thank you. Do I open it now or later?”
“Later,” he replied. After school ended, I opened the envelope and found a gift card inside; even better were his words that he wished all of his classes were like mine and that he always leaves school in a good mood. I am touched and will really miss him when the school year ends. He is bright and funny; despite my best efforts not to smile sometimes when he’s especially wiggly, I still do. We connected when for some reason during the first semester in mock frustration I told him he was hopeless.  As he left class, he stopped at the door, turned around and looked me in the eyes, and said, “I have hope.” He smiled  and walked away.  We have been engaged in daily “battles” ever since.

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Poem for Teachers

My mother gave this poem to me when I first started teaching.  I look at it at least once a year.

Before the Class Comes Marching In (Author unknown)

Well, Father, what do You think?

The room looks nice, doesn’t it?

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. Relax.

Today is the first day of school.

And—depending on the class I get—

today could seem

like the first day of the rest of my life.

That’s the funny thing about classes,

isn’t it, Lord?

I mean, the Class

seems to have a personality all its own,

in addition to all the personalities in it.

The whole being greater

than the sum of its parts, and all that.

What do you think—

the room looks nice, doesn’t it?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, Lord,

and there are two messages

I want to get across right from the start:

“Welcome, child!

I believe in you!

Together we can have

a delightful year

of learning and growth!”


“Nobody messes with me, kid!”

I think that just about covers it, Lord!

Breate in. Br—

Oh! There’s the bell.

Just one more thing, Lord.

You’re not going anyplace are You?

More anon, dear ones.  ¡Ciao!

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Professional Development – Day Three

We had time working with our technology facilitator and learning about new apps to use with our students.  The expectation is to try something new, not overwhelm yourself trying to do everything.  I maintain a blog for my students and parents, a Twitter account, and use Remind 101 to send one-way text messages about what’s happening in my class.  It’s helpful to know about the tools available.  We spent time planning out the first two weeks of school as a grade-level team; it was a productive, meaningful time.  I am looking forward to seeing my students on Monday morning.  The adventure begins anew then.  More anon.

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Professional Development – Day One

Today was spent reviewing district and state-level mandated training during our staff development time. Tomorrow will be district-level meetings with the various disciplines scattered abroad. Our district continues to mushroom in growth, so it is a necessity. It was nice to see my colleagues again after our summer vacation time. I have my classroom tidied up, but I just need to set up my desks for the Kagan initiative we implemented last year. They are matched in height but lack numerical labeling for the students to find their seats. I was fortunate enough to win a t-shirt during one of our fun competitions today. We did a contest called “Hanky Panky.” The object was to empty a full box of tissues with only one hand during 60 seconds. I was second place but a fierce competitor nonetheless. I am still pleased with my performance since this is not a skill I practice on a daily basis. Ha ha ha!

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A Little Work

My teammates and I wrote out our lesson plans for the week we return to school, January 7-11, 2013.  It was my responsibility to type in the Pre-AP prep, so I did it this morning before my coffee or exercise time.  I did it so that during the rest of my holiday, I am not looking at my workbook and notebook with guilty feelings and thinking, “I should really get those done.” I have done my part, and now I get to relax, read, and refresh myself for the next ten days (today included).  I plan to do just that.  ¡Ciao!

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There is No “S” on My Chest

The last time I checked, I didn’t have a big red “S” emblazoned on my shirt.  I don’t wear blue tights with a red cape.  I am not allergic to kryptonite, and I certainly don’t fly.  My students sometimes think I have come from another planet, but I am not Supergirl or Superwoman.  I work with some incredibly talented ladies and gentleman on my staff.  There are hundreds of years of experience just outside my door or reachable by email.  My staff is a family, and my grade level team are my sisters.  We plan out our lessons and take turns writing them up, making copies, or whatever.

I have been an island and had to create my own sand, sunshine, and sea.  No thank you to that any more.  It is okay to let someone else do something for you.  It really, really is.  People are willing to help if you give them the list of tasks to do.  My strength and weakness is that I  keep my own counsel.  I know what should be done, but I don’t always say it out loud.  At times, I don’t want to step on someone’s toes. Other times, I figure I can make time to get it done properly.  Earth-bound again!  Every time I leap into the air to fly, gravity snatches me back to the land of reality with a nice, hard thud as I land on my rear end.  There is some wisdom in the statement “many hands divide the work.”  Let someone else help you!!!  Now if I could just get John Williams’ “Superman Theme Song” out of my head, I’d be fine.

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