A State Of Emergency!

When you are teaching at-risk students of poverty you are in a crisis situation. Every minute counts. Every benchmark is critical. You truly are in a state of emergency.

When you arrive in the morning you have to be ready. You must be prepared and over prepared. You have to be flexible and be ready to fight. You need to push harder when you want to cry. You must work harder than you ever thought possible and then be prepared to do it again, everyday.

Why would anyone want to do this? Sometimes I wonder that same thing. The stress and pressure of trying to get students several grade levels below standard to make up years of academic information is daunting, and often feels impossible. ( For both you and the student).

But then you hear about a student who is doing well in high school; the first one from his/her family to attend high school and you think, it is worth it.  Or you hear about a student being accepted into a college and you remember that student struggling in your class. The one you told to never stop trying, to always push on, and to not settle for less. You knew they could do it and somehow that belief sunk in. They actually listened to you. They believed that you meant what you said, because you did, every word.

When you teach in a crisis situation you know that everything you do and say might be the only positive thing your students encounter all week. You must not only teach but to listen, advise, build confidence, show them that there are people that they can trust, and who believe in them.

It is a very overwhelming job. But at the end of the day, when you finally sit down, you realize you may have deflected a few emergencies for some well deserving kids.


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A Visit

Every year brings a new adventure to a teacher and an educator. Each individual student has an impact on a class. You hear teachers talking about past classes and you can hear the laughter in their voices when they discuss a group of students that they couldn’t help but enjoy. “They may have not been the best behaving class, but boy-oh-boy they could make me laugh.” Or you can hear the exasperation in their voice when they describes the class who could not be motivated easily, or the anger when they talk about the group of mean girls which just left a nasty taste in their mouths. It doesn’t matter, every year a class has a personality of it’s own.

I recently had the chance to go to the feeder high school with my new class of eighth grade students. I was so excited because I knew while I was there I would get a chance to spy on some of the kids I taught in previous years. As soon as we pulled up to the entrance of the school my eyes started darting back and forth. When we walked through the doors I couldn’t stop scanning the hallways hoping and wishing that just one of my babies would walk down the hall. How would they react? What would I do? What would my new kids think? What would the new teachers I work with think? Where the heck is everyone?

Then it happened…. At the end of the introduction I was allowed to walk around the school. I anxiously scanned each doorway and classroom window looking for familiar faces. I saw seniors I taught, juniors, sophomores, and then freshmen. I looked inside a room and the whole room was filled with my kids…of all ages. I was beside myself. I walked in slowly looking into one face then the other. As their smiles grew so did mine. Then some jumped up and well, that was it. Hugs, laughter, teasing, shoulder slapping, smiling, wistfulness, and happiness was everywhere. I was home. I was with my babies.

Little by little as the day progressed I realized what an impact I have made on these children and conversely how much their presence in my life has impacted me. Through the years they brought me joy, sorrow, frustration, and so much pride. They are the results of my hard work. They are why I do what I do and did what I did.

As the day came to an end and all the pictures were taken, all the advice was given, all the hugs were absorbed, I went back to my new kids. They are a continuation of what I have always done. The faces that I look at every Monday through Friday will impact my life like all the faces I had the honor of looking at in the past. It’s awesome really…this thing called education. I will never….ever…ever…be the same as I was prior to working with all of these wonderful children. And each day I get to change a little more because of them.


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Change v. Stability

I know that I should love the hot temperatures. I know that I will miss the sunny and bright days once winter comes creeping at our doors, but I gotta tell you, I am loving the colder temps. School is supposed to be a fall event. When you see “Back-to-School” ads all of the clothes displayed are long sleeved, jeans, and jackets. They are not sundresses, shorts, and t-shirts. The Indian Summers we have been experiencing in the past couple of years have changed the face of what it means to go back to school.

I have had car duty or bus duty every day for years now. I just adore greeting the kids in the morning and saying good-bye in the afternoon. I like getting them pumped up for a strong day of learning and letting them know that I’ll miss them and think of them until I see them again. The downside is horrible weather. I never think about it on the nice days. I stand outside, take deep breaths and just enjoy being outside. But then…rain…snow…sleet…hail. I know it’s coming. I know it’s near.

But the bad weather is not here yet and it’s important to look at the bright side of things. Just like everything else, change doesn’t exactly mean better, it just screams different. Now the weather change can be good. I mean, hot sunny days are great, unless you’re walking a parking lot for 30 minutes in black pants and dark print shirt. Then, the sun isn’t my friend. My hair frizzes, I sweat, and I may even curse a bit under my breath. But, cooler weather, now I’m happy. The breeze lifts my hair off my neck, a small jacket feels cozy, and I have the energy to soar.

Just like students, teachers like stability. They like to know the expectations of their administration, and feel confident that they are meeting those expectations. Teachers are mainly people pleasers and rather determined to maintain an organized and in control demeanor. Teachers are leaders of their classrooms, of their teams, and of their students. When teachers experience a lot of change their foundation is shaken. Whether the change is good or bad, it doesn’t matter for awhile because no matter what, the change is uncertain. It’s scary.

I’m blending some of my most favorite topics in a rather convoluted way. I have written about change many times, consistency…a ton, and the importance of relationships…until I’m exhausted. But it’s an important topic, especially in education. Like a sports team, an educational team has to work as a unit. All of the members need to know who they can trust, what they can say in confidence, and who they can lean on. Students, especially at-risk students are crippled by inconsistency and change. They thrive when there are authentic relationships, dependability, and trust. Without these elements, learning comes to a halt. We have to get to know one another

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Amy and I have been working hard for a pretty long time now. We’ve made a lot of changes and we keep striving to get the word out on our books, our business, and most of all, our dedication to the kids in education.

Looking at our business, we are definitely still in the early stages. We are slowly plodding along getting people to recognize us as educational consultants and children’s book authors. We are just dying to get into the schools, all the schools, to spread our love of educating every child to his or her full potential. But it’s been a slow process. Our one series is all written and four of our other books are done and submitted to our publisher. We are waiting completion and delivery of all our books. We want to get them out to everyone. It’s been slow. But we are getting there. We keep talking, we keep staying positive (sometimes one of use eggs on the other), we stay dedicated to our cause, and we work extremely hard at our new jobs every single day. And folks…we will continue to move forward.

A positive outlook is so important in whatever field you work in, in whatever class you are taking, in whatever adventure you are embarking on. In order to make it work, in order to make it thrive, in order to make it worth it, you have to believe in the good, in the positive, in the reasons behind what you are choosing to do. If anyone wants to make it work, they have to stay firm in their belief that what they are working towards is worth it.

Now, let’s turn it back to education. Let’s picture that student in the classroom who is struggling, for whatever reason. Let’s look at that child who doesn’t quite fit the norm. He may have a learning disability, he may have anger issues, he may be ADHD, he may be ELL. Whatever it is, he just does not conform. He may take longer to do his work, he may mumble and interrupt, he may push in line, he may cry. But when you look at him….really look at him, isn’t he really just a kid. Isn’t he just a student just like all the other children in the classroom. Doesn’t he have the right to learn just like everyone else in the school. And yes, he may take up a bit more of your time. Yes, he may have to be reminded a few more times then his friend, and yes, he may try the nerves of even a saint, but isn’t he worth it? Isn’t it our job as educators to look on the bright side, to recognize his gifts, his talents, his worries, and fears? Isn’t he worth our very best each and every day? In order to be the very best educator possible, isn’t it our job to make sure he succeeds? Isn’t that what we signed on for when we signed that measly contract at the end of last year or on the day we accepted our job? Shouldn’t we look at every child with empathy, kindness, and love? If we aren’t. If we talk about that child to our peers and label him as a “problem”, or a “nuisance”, or worse, as a “bother”. Then we are in the wrong. We do not have the right outlook. We need the attitude adjustment.

No one said teaching was easy. No one. And if they did….then they have no idea what it really takes to teach and make a difference. So think about it. Why are you a teacher? Do you have the right outlook? Is teaching more than a job? Will you do anything you have to in order to make every student achieve his or her full potential? If not, well then, we need to have a talk.

Make a promise to yourself that you will think positive about every student. Promise yourself that you will remember why you chose to go into education, and promise yourself that you will separate from the negativity that is present in every workplace. Look at the bright side. Know that you have the potential to make a child’s world better. Move forward knowing that you have the means, knowledge, and drive to be great for other people. What a gift being a teacher is!!!!! Remember that!!!

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