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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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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In Mourning

I think I’ve been in mourning for over a year and now I am finally crawling out of that dark place. I didn’t have any idea that I was suffering. I mean, I knew that I felt loss, but I just couldn’t figure out why. I thought that maybe I was going through a bit of a mid life crises, after all I’m 48…and a half. My greys are getting harder, if not impossible, to fight off. My oldest turned twenty and my middle is going into her senior year. I feel…well frankly, fat and quite yucky. I look in the mirror and see my mother at my age and although no one in this world could possibly love and admire her mother more, it is rather a shock when you look in the mirror and realize that you have become your mother. Not only those things, but our publisher has gone down in flames and we only have half of our series published. But, I don’t think any of that is the reason for this funk I’ve been feeling. I think I have been in mourning. Not for the loss of a loved one, but strangely enough, for the loss of the school I had been a part of for eight years.

People say a job is a job, and it is, sort of. I mean, I had to wake up ridiculously early, drive thirty minutes, plan creative and challenging lessons, grade countless papers, spend a fair amount of my own money, and teach both difficult and amazing students. I had to fight for my students on a daily basis and a had to feel exhausted, frustrated, exhilarated, and crazed every single day. I mean, I was a teacher and a dedicated one to boot. I was in a school that demanded a lot from me. Many of my students needed support, the principal asked a lot from everyone, and I had to be at the top of my game every day because the teachers around me were phenomenal. I grew very close to my staff, but that didn’t mean I was never angry. I took my turn crying and railing and yelling and Amy and I would complain and curse and scream in the van to and from work. I mean that school was hard work. But man, I felt like I was accomplishing something huge. I was making a difference. I was advocating for my students’ right for a great education and for a future.

There were many things at that school that drove me crazy, it was “work” after all. But it was home. Every time I walked through those doors I was exactly where I wanted to be. The smell, the feel, the volume was just…it. I laughed every single day. I was allowed to be loud and crazy. I expected to be teased mercilessly on a daily basis. My hair was the center of conversation and my singing was ridiculed, but it was okay because those people were my family. They knew I was there day after day for those kids. The students were why our world spun. Every decision we made, every extra effort we put into our work, every hour we stayed after our contracted work day was okay because everything we did was for the kids. We were in it together. And then with one decision made by someone who should not have the power to make such and important decisions ended that. Our family broke up. We all scattered and the world we created, the world me cherished, the world we lived for crumbled. It was and continues to be devastating.

I am now a full time administrator and I feel that I made the right choice in leaving when I did. I made the same decision that many of my school family members made. We saw the writing on the walls and we made the extremely difficult decision to leave, to break away, to flee. It was the right decision, but it wasn’t easy.

I moved on. I did what I had to do. Little be little I’m letting it go. I am searching for my passion again. I’ve missed it… you know that feeling of strong purpose. I have learned a lot this year. I’ve grown as an educator. I’ve had to leave my comfort zone and stretch myself. In the midst of my loss I had to concentrate on finishing up my work on my principal’s license and I had to get used to a brand new job that didn’t really resemble anything like I had done in the past. These responsibilities kept me focused and although from time to time I would let myself go under, I didn’t have time to focus on my hurt and on my loss. I couldn’t let myself drop the ball and feel sad. I know it sounds crazy, I mean, it was just a job, but it was so much more. But, now that I know I’ve been in mourning I feel like my footing is returning. I know now what’s been wrong with me. I can now get over it and move on.

My loss is so small compared to others, I know that and I think that was one of the reasons I didn’t realize I was in mourning. I am grateful for all I have. I know I am very lucky for so many reasons. But I also know that I was very lucky when we had our old school because not many people get to go to work every day with their family. We were blessed.


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