This past month the West Virginia teachers decided to walk out. The teachers were disheartened because they were to receive a 1% raise but would be required to pay more for health care. The legislators drug their feet and argued over the details, wondering why on Earth the teachers were so upset. WV ranks 48th in the country in teacher pay. Many teachers took the job knowing their salaries were not going to be high, but they were assured that their insurance benefits would make up the difference, so they settled, oh, I mean accepted that fact.

Now, I grew up in WV and have a niece who teaches in WV currently. When I graduated from college in the 80’s I searched for months for a teaching job. So, did many of my friends. Not one of us found one in WV. We all relocated to find jobs elsewhere. We did find jobs in Ohio, New Jersey, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and elsewhere. We built our lives in these new states and made homes for ourselves and our families.

We have returned to WV to visit family, but we have seen sadness there. Businesses closed, buildings in disarray, unemployment high, underemployment the norm, and people looked tired and worn down by life. My son once asked me why everyone in my hometown looked so sad. I was shocked that a young boy would notice this. I wanted to say because they are worked to death and unvalued, that the leaders in WV do not seem to have a vision for their citizens, but I said that there were just a lot of elderly people and they sometimes look sad.

I have endured WV jokes. (yes, we wore shoes), my close friend lives in New York City, she has endured WV jokes. However, when all her “big city” friends got to know what a hardworking, ambitious, articulate, amazing person she was, their opinions of WV changed. The stigma of being from WV and being ignorant should not exist.

Every state, every city, and every school need great teachers. These are the people who make change. Education has long been the key to getting out of generational stagnation and poverty. Education is hope. Education is the light that should pull children toward a better life.

Teachers do way more than just stand in front of a classroom and lecture. (Even this image is old school in today’s classroom.) Here are just a few things I have either done or witnessed, do you still agree that teachers really deserve just a 1% raise or even a 5%?

  • Brought in snacks for students who had none
  • Provided shampoo, soap, toothpaste, deodorant in bathrooms for students so they would not feel self-conscious and could focus on learning instead
  • Created a closet of dresses, belts, and suit coats for students who had nothing to wear for formal occasions.
  • Brought in a washer/dryer to the school so students could have clean clothes
  • Took students’ clothes home to wash so they were not embarrassed by stains or smells
  • Bought school supplies, binders, markers, colored pencils, stickers, etc…
  • Drove students to local college campuses to open their world to higher education
  • Sat for hours filling out college applications with students
  • Provided translators during parent/teacher conferences for parents with limited English
  • Held parent/teacher conferences late into the night or at various times during school hours, so even parents with 2 jobs had the opportunity to come and talk to the teachers
  • Brought in shoes for students, cleats are expensive, dress shoes are a luxury
  • Hired a beautician to come to the school and wash & cut student’s hair because they were traumatized by an abusive situation during their last haircut
  • Sat with students during suicidal episodes, anxiety attacks, bi-polar explosions, abuse accusations, and police questioning
  • Took students to district competitions who would have missed it and their chance to show their academic prowess because of no means of transportation
  • Tutored students for free during lunch or afterschool so they could succeed
  • Attended funerals in the middle of the summer for a former student’s family member
  • Found scholarship money or donations for students who wanted to take band but could not afford an instrument
  • Started an all school free breakfast program for any student
  • Advocated to high school for students so they would be accepted to private high schools because they deserved the opportunity
  • Attended soccer games, track meets, choir concerts, band recitals, plays, basketball, baseball, and softball games

Believe me, teachers do these things and much more daily. Let’s respect teachers and education. It is time!

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.                           

Nelson Mandela

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Right now it feels as if the world is spiraling out of control. Everyone has an opinion about everything, whether they have accurate knowledge on the subject or not. I have been trying to understand some of the reasons for this discourse, maybe you will disagree, but here are my thoughts.

When I grew up, we were expected to work hard, listen to our parents and teachers, treat others how we wanted to be treated, and be respectful. Unfortunately, our current society’s pendulum has swung to the side of, what’s in it for me? Now, I am not saying that some self care isn’t important, but it seems to have gotten out of hand.

My mother never got a break, a day off, a relaxing day at a spa or a girls’ vacation, ever. Of course she could have used a reprieve from the monotony of raising 6 kids with little financial resources. My father never went on golf outings or fishing trips with the guys for the weekend either. It just wasn’t common in our home or even in our city where we were. We worked hard, loved America, loved our families, loved God, and put others needs in front of ours.

People said that it was okay to think of yourselfokay to put yourself first, okay to ask for what you needed. Of course this concept was more than okay, everyone needed a little re-setting of the mind and soul. The problem was that society took this idea and became self-absorbed. People craved attention and posessions. Technology and social media helped to self promote and angrily voice opinions. The original theory was a good one, but what has come of it, not so much.

As an educator, my hands are tied in many situations. I see parents bullying teachers and the system, Yes, I said it, bullying. They complain about everything. They believe that their child is never wrong, and they do not allow their child to be held responsible for their actions. Hello, welcome to life people! Believe me, I let a lot go in my classroom, but if you forget your homework and get a “missing” it is just a reminder to be more conscientious next time. It is to teach you responsibility, that’s it!

What do parents do instead? They say, you can’t do this to my child, they couldn’t help it, they had practice or forgot their book at school, etc. so the dreaded “missing” is unfair. They say things like, this is hurting my childthis is causing harm to my child. No, sorry to say, you are hurting your child. Allow them to take ownership and learn, allow them to grow from each experience, please.

Educators spend a lot of time and money getting their degrees. They continue their education, paying for it out of their own pockets, and participate in professional development during the school year. Educators plan exciting lessons, grade tests, spend hours on report card comments about each child, and use their own money for supplies. They are not in this field to write up your child and get him/her in trouble. (Okaythere are some of “those” teachers who have a fixed mindset, I know).

The point, accountability, responsibility, and respect for others are missing. We have to stop blaming others and reconnect with each other as human beings. Parents, please talk to your children, listen and pay attention to them, don’t overindulge them. Instead, empower them to advocate for themselves. We need to build character, not tear down each other. 

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Snow Day Perspective

Today we had a snow day. I thought of all the various perspectives happening by 6:00am this morning.

Student perspective: Yay, yay, yay, yay, yay! No school! Kids under 10 get up excitedly, pre-teens and teens pull up the comforter and roll over.

Working parent perspective: I need a babysitter. Who can I call quickly? Can I work from home? Honey, can you work from home? Hey teenage child, you are watching your younger siblings today! Get up! This weather stinks.

Stay at home parent perspective: What a great day to snuggle on the couch with my chidren. Maybe we can make a snowman and drink some hot chocolate. Yay, no rushing around. What a nice surprise!

Snowman’s perspective: I bet I will get a few new friends today! I love this weather and all this snow and ice!

Teacher perspective: Yay, no school! initially Well, but what about that test I was going to give today? Oh shoot, I was going to start the next math lesson today. I better revamp my lesson plans. How am I going to meet all of the standards and hit all of my instructional goals with less time? Oh, I will worry about that later, a day off is pretty amazing. I am glad I do not have to drive in this snow and ice!

Administration perspective: Oh boy, more snow and ice. Here we go, do I make the call yet or wait on other districts? What are the meteorologist saying? Should I call a 2 hr. delay or cancel? What are my teachers going to think? What are my parents going to think? I know what the kids will think. Decisions, responsibility, and leadership, oh my!

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Lori and I both work in the same school. This summer due to some unforeseen circumstances the school building needed extensive renovating. This caused school to be delayed for nearly a month. Teachers and students were thrilled with the additional summer vacation, but we all agreed we needed to get back to school! Luckily, administration was quick to set plans in motion to get the school ready as fast and as clean as possible.

Last week the staff and many volunteers frantically put the school and classrooms back together. The halls were lined with desks, chairs, bookcases, boxes and even painters, still painting as furniture was being moved around them. It was a rather hectic week to put it mildly.

Thursday, we had it all done as best we could; thank goodness because school officially started on Friday. All of the classrooms looked well, like classrooms. The staff room was mysteriously set up with all new tables, chairs, decorations, and snacks galore! The office was a buzz, but information got out to parents. The copier was on warp-speed with lesson plans and memos being printed at an alarming rate.

There were many parents who volunteered their time to help; they took days off from their own jobs to come in and clean, move things, set up, paint, and do whatever was needed. The ones who could not physically help sent in gift cards for teachers to purchase supplies for their rooms. Students also signed up to help. I had several invaluable young ladies who saved my life helping me to make my room look pretty amazing.

The positive energy that now permeates the hallways is inspiring. We all came together; administration, staff, teachers, parents, and students to make this school year happen. We are grateful and excited for a fabulous year.

Let the education begin!



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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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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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