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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Lighten Up and Laugh

Last night I participated in a Twitter chat. I still do not fully understand how it all works, but I comment and retweet. The chat was an educational one, go figure, and the entire set of questions were about engaging students and getting them to love literary as much as teachers do. The discussion focused on the connection between enjoying reading and the desire to want to write; yes, the dreaded writing issue.

There were many great ideas but as I added my 2 cents worth I realized it all comes down to this. It depends on how the teacher is able to motivate, inspire, connect, and build relationships with their students. (We may have blogged on this before, like 68 times).

I currently go with my gut instinct. This approach works much better for me. I never make a reluctant reader read aloud unless he/she volunteers, I never make a student read their writing in front of the class unless he/she wants to, (unless we are grading on a speaking and presenting standard and they are well aware ahead of time).  I do not compare a struggling student to a high performing student because these things hurt and demoralize, not motivate.

Now, most of my current students love to read and want to write. There are a few that really need me to get them started and stay close during the process. They are still independent but they get stuck. They need some reassurance and I give it to them. These are usually the students who cause class disruptions and fight me on everything, but they come around with patience and those small academic wins. This is not that difficult to do. I just do it, it is not rocket science, as my friend Vicki Petrella likes to say.

My former students, who were not native English speakers, struggled with writing. It was so confusing and frustrating to them. Every time they thought they had the grammar or spelling correct the rule changed. We ended up with some great pieces of writing from these amazing students. They put in the effort because they knew we were all learning together. It was safe to try.

Lori and I always wonder if we are doing enough, if we are in the right place, if we are making a difference; I think all of us in education tend to reflect this way, or should. I feel pretty good when I start to reflect. I get Facebook messages from students I taught years ago. Some actually tell me about how school is going. Lori and  I also get emails and the occasional comment on this webpage from students. They think it is a hoot that we have a webpage and always want us to write about them. Ironically, we always write about them. They are all we think about.

So, if you are an educator who is struggling with burnout or lack of enthusiasm, change it up, do what feels right inside, laugh every single day with your students, don’t be a curmudgeon.  They will read, they will write, they will attempt those difficult math problems, if you enjoy teaching and authentically develop those relationships. Kids are hysterical, how fun to be surrounded by kids all day, what a great job we have! 


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Dreams Come True

We all have dreams. Some dreams are bigger than others. It’s our job as educators to work extremely hard to make kids’ dreams and aspirations come true.

Some of you may know that I am a big “So You Think You Can Dance” fan. I absolutely love it. The feelings that these talented people evoke through movement are astounding. The control, the depth, the range that they have is truly inspiring. I cry during more episodes than I don’t and I know that’s silly, but I just can’t help it. As my girls and I watch the show, out of the corner of my eye I can see them watching me closely. “What’s going to set me off?” they wonder. I don’t know to tell you the truth. I just get blown away.

When I think about education, when I really think about what great teachers and dedicated school leaders can do, I tend to get teary eyed too. I feel so strongly about what I do and the impact I know each educator can have on a child, that sometimes I choke up. The responsibility is so great. Research has proven this fact over and over.

The last year I was in a classroom, somehow I found myself in charge of the eighth grade play. Don’t ask me how, but all of a sudden I was a director. Many of the students were in my 8th grade language arts class and I had taught them in previous years, well some I taught from fifth all the way until they graduated from our school. I knew they had talent and I knew each one of those students so well I had faith that they could make that play something special. I decided to handpick my crew, my goal was that by the end of the rehearsals that the students I had chosen would run the play all by themselves. I would step back and let them lead. I have to admit that at times the process was pretty darn painful. I had high expectations and I knew how I wanted the play to look to the audience. We had so many practices during school and some crew members decided to stay after school to work on sound, lighting, curtain, and props.

When the performance came I planned to sit in the audience and to let them fly, but I couldn’t. Not because the crew didn’t have things under control, but because I was bawling like a baby. It was ridiculous. Two of my students had to make a seat backstage for me, hand me a box of Kleenex and tell me to just keep it down. It seems they knew me pretty well too. Those kids made me so proud. The play went on without a hitch. (I have to add that the props were great too because Amy was in charge of those.) I felt so lucky just sitting there watching these talented, brave, and intelligent children. They rose to the challenge and made my dream come through. They succeeded.

Dreams are funny things. Some are challenging while others are just plain wishful. But, it doesn’t really matter because as teachers it is our job to do everything we can to make sure our students’ dreams come true. It may be really hard sometimes, but when their dreams come true, ours do too.


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