I have been taking this summer easy. I am lucky enough to only tutor once a week and take care of teenage boys who ignore me, so pretty easy. I have been taking time to reflect and gathering ideas for the up coming year. I am always looking for new ideas or perfecting old ones, especially during the summer.

I was able to help a close friend’s daughter move out of state and set up her very first classroom. My van was packed to the top with all of her things. We moved her into an upstairs apartment, helped her hang pictures, went furniture shopping, and bought groceries. Then we went to her classroom and set it up.

We left her on her own to start the school year as a brand new teacher. She’s prepared. She attended an excellent university with a phenomenal education program. She had a well-trained experienced mentor teacher who helped her through her student teaching, and she is a naturally compassionate person who loves children. Piece of cake, right?

Ask any teacher if they remember their first year and they will tell you like it was yesterday. It is quite a challenging experience that can shake the most confident person to the core.  I have had several  first year experiences. I know that sounds crazy but there was the real first year, where I moved away from family and friends and had no idea what I was doing.  I had my second first year when I went back to work after staying home to raise my own children, and then when I finally felt like I was getting the hang of it, I got moved to the dreaded “middle-school” and had to figure it all out again!

Teaching is a tough job that requires resilience. Teachers need to remember those self doubting times with the fear and uncertainty because that is exactly how many students feel too. Viewing a student at surface level is not enough, there are so many back stories that might be plaguing that child, yes, that child who is obstinate or even the class clown. Education is about lifelong teaching and understanding. It is about seeing beyond today and building lives. That is why it is so scary.

In these tumultuous times we need to be especially prepared to be open and honest with our students. The world can be a scary place and I know every teacher has felt that same anxiety the night before. Will I be enough? Will I connect with these students? Will I know what to say and do when dealing with tough issues?

I email and text my friend’s daughter daily to encourage her to keep on moving forward, reflect, re-plan, and start over every day because that is what great teachers do.

To all educators heading back to school, good luck and be proud! You got this! You will be enough!


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Whole New World

I do a lot of educational reading and this summer has been no exception. The only difference being, that I’m not doing it for a class…finally, so I can read whatever I want. It’s clear by the literature that’s out there that teaching/education is changing. It’s not even close to what it used to be back in the olden days; you know, like when I went to school. The invention of the internet, social media, blogs (like ours), live streaming, and apps takes education to a whole new level. If this observation is true, and I know it is because I have read, seen, and experienced things that prove it, then educators who have been around for a while have to come to terms with the fact that it’s a whole new world out there and this should be represented in our classrooms and schools.

The word “change” should be interchangeable with the word “education”. Education in America and across the world is constantly morphing and shifting to represent the times. The unfortunate fact is that although education changes, many teachers do not. You’ve heard me say that education is an incredibly personal craft, therefore it becomes very difficult to admit to some that what they have done well and successfully in the past may not work today. That’s hard to hear and frankly once educators realize this and accept it, they know that they have a whole lot of work to do. Creating a working curriculum is hard to do. It’s more than taking the standards written by the states, breaking them down into doable lessons, then implementing the lessons. It’s so much more than that. If you are a teacher that responds to the gifts, talents, and needs of your students, then one lesson does not fit all. Add that fact with the realization that kids today learn differently, need newer instructional goals, and thrive in an environment of discovery, well then you’ve just opened Pandora’s box. Nothing you used to do is usable. It’s time to scrap your old plans and devise new ones to meet all the goals in today’s classrooms.

A new school year is about to begin. Take a good, hard look at what you’ve been doing and look around. Is it time to rethink, take stock, and imagine what more is out there. This self-assessment is important because reflection and change is what keeps us fresh and motivated and educators. Use the new tools out there to open a world of knowledge and discovery for your students. Test yourself, try new methods, new ideas, and new creative means to get the concepts across to your children. Each teacher is the ruler of his/her classroom. It is up to you to make it whatever you want. Why not make it a whole new world.


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Inspiration

Inspiration can be found in many places. Depending on the person and what they truly have a passion for, inspiration can be found anywhere, but for teachers….well…that’s something different. Teachers, or rather educators should find their inspiration in the children that they teach. This is a fact and if it’s not true for an educator, then that person is in the wrong profession. I must sound a little harsh. I mean, some people may say that the people who work around them inspire them, and, I guess that can be true to some extent. A little competition never hurt anyone, but in order to be your absolute best in education, it just has to be all about the kids.

Some may say that working in a school is an environment ripe with drama…well actually, I say that. In buildings full of women (yes, I said women because we make up around three-fourths of schools’ workforce) there is bound to be some drama – I know, controversial, yet true. Drama must be placed on the backburner and sometimes this is very hard to do. Women are emotional beings and there is nothing more emotional than teaching. Teaching can be compared to parenting. It is also a craft, much like art. We educators take things to heart and we all try our hardest, or at least we think we do, but sometimes even the best intentioned teacher becomes stagnant or something in one’s personal life spills over to one’s professional life. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to the students in the classroom. Teachers not only effect the students while they are in their classrooms, but for years later. This is why the children have to be the center of a teacher’s mind, thus being the inspiration for what they do in the classroom.

There is no place in education for teachers that are bored. You can’t take it easy, even for one year. The students are what matter; not the test scores or the parental feedback…the students. If all educators realize that the reason they are in school is to have a positive impact on a child’s life, well then that’s inspirational. If that doesn’t do it for you…well then go find something that does.


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In Loving Memory

We all have role models, mentors, those that impact our lives for the better, whether professionally or personally. I am lucky enough to have a few in the world of education. One lady whom I met at Ashland University was a professor of mine for three leadership classes. During my semesters with her, she inspired and motivated me to be a better educator.

Dr. Carol Engler was a special person because she was one of those people who could walk into a room and immediately garner everyone’s attention. The first time I saw her, she was wearing a leather skirt and had the most amazing shoes. Her hair was bright red and her curls were wild and untamed. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Then she spoke. This lady knew what she was talking about and she knew how to get the class involved and invested. After the first class I knew that I would take every class she taught and I did. Her energy was catchy and her love of education was infectious. Every assignment we had to do was necessary and I learned a lot from her.

Carol died from cancer this past week.

This one person clearly had a positive influence on so many, and she touched my life and I will remember her always. I was so lucky to have experienced her brilliance and light. As teachers and administrators we all have this insane responsibility to also impact others in positive ways and we have to take that responsibility very seriously. Every word and action we take with children will influence their lives. Educators can determine whether a person experiences future success or failure. Research has proven this time and time again.

There are no excuses for performing your job in education part way. You can’t “kind of” be invested. As a teacher you have to take on personal responsibility for the successes and failures in your classroom. As an administrator you have to advocate for your students and make sure that every single teacher is working hard to create innovative and fun lessons in their classrooms. There is no bare minimum in education. Dr. Engler left a legacy in education of commitment and joy in the craft of teaching and learning. I am so thankful that I had to opportunity to learn from her.


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