The Teacher Blues

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This summer I will celebrate my 17th year of teaching. During those 17 years, I have been a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade teacher. I served as a Title I Resource Teacher for 3rd-5th grades, and I took one year off to substitute, as a pre-school teacher while my middle child was a baby.  I even enjoyed some time as an adjunct faculty college professor for Polk State College.   The purpose of listing my teaching experiences is not to brag or boast my resume, but rather it’s to admit that after 17 years of teaching, I still feel like I am growing, stretching, and resurfacing as a different teacher every year. There are still those ups and downs of not feeling adequate enough…not meeting the needs of every child. There are times I get the “teacher blues.”

You know the “teacher blues.” Sometimes, you question whether or not you are a good enough teacher. Am I doing enough for every child? Why isn’t this working? How can I do this better? Why are my scores so low?   Why can’t I think of creative and neat activities that are on Pinterest? Why don’t the parents understand how much I am doing for their children? Then, you find yourself comparing yourself to other teachers and wishing you could be just like them. Your feelings of inadequacy cause you not to ask for help or collaborate, because you don’t want to admit that you don’t have all the answers.

I have these “teacher blues” time to time, and I have to remind myself that when I feel this way that these are just “feelings.” Feelings are not always truth, and teachers should remind themselves that life is NOT perfect. Our students will sometimes struggle with concepts. Parents don’t always see the big picture. We don’t always have to do everything over the top like on Pinterest. Most of all, teachers are all different. I am different. I do not have the same strengths as another teacher, and that teacher won’t have the same strengths as me. If we let our “teacher blues” get the best of us, then we won’t be OUR BEST as teachers. We don’t collaborate. My students will not get the best of me if I let the “teacher blues” override me every time. Feeling inadequate takes away the confidence I need as a teacher to meet the needs of every child. It takes away the hope and idealism that I believe in as an educator.

The point is that you, as a teacher, care enough to be your best. That’s why you do question yourself. You are the person who cares about whether or not you are meeting your students’ needs. But at the end of the day, your students will remember you for being a kind, compassionate, loving soul. They will remember that you gave it your all, and that’s all we can do…give it our best. So, the next time you are feeling the “teacher blues,” just remember that: You.Are.Awesome.

Setting Priorities in the New Year

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After a long hiatus from posting any blogs, I have returned with my feelings, thoughts, and words.  This school year brought a lot of changes with a new administration, set of new students with different needs, and the necessity to spend more time with family.  I chose to place priority on the important things of life this school year, and that is so important to being an effective teacher.

Burn out is so common among teachers, especially teachers who are so dedicated and committed to reflecting upon their instruction and making it better.  Time is spent researching strategies, planning effective lessons, organizing necessary materials, and loving on each student.  We are the first ones to arrive at school and the last ones to drive away from the parking lot.  Sometimes, our weekends are spent in our classroom.  You know who you are…you are the teacher who cares so much, and you feel like if you aren’t committed with your time, then you must not be as effective or care so much.

But what happens to this kind of teacher?  They burn out.  They lose that energy that makes the classroom “come alive.”  Therefore, it’s so important for us to set our priorities in a way that doesn’t produce a “fizzle.”  As teachers, it’s so important to:

  •  Put family first.  Our family is our primary responsibility, and if we expect our students’ parents to put their kids first, then we must do the same.  We, as parents, are the primary teachers of our own children.
  • Make time for yourself.  Research continually demonstrates that rest and relaxation is important.  Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep.  Trust me…as a parent of three kids, I know this is so hard!!  However, even if it’s for an hour, do something for YOU!  The laundry can wait, and the papers really don’t have to be graded that day.
  • Learn how to delegate.  Use your parent volunteers.  Giving up control is hard, but your parents really want to feel a part of the school community.  Use them to file papers, cut out lamination, make copies, or even work with students.  You would be surprised how much students can learn from other adults.
  • Most importantly, know that caring is sometimes enough.  We put too much stress on ourselves as teachers.  At the end of the day, your student is going to remember you for whether or not you showed that you cared about them.  They might not remember the most fabulous technology lesson, exciting field trip, or phenomenal activity.  However, they will always remember if you demonstrated compassion and love towards them.

May all my teacher peeps have a wonderful 2016 school year.  May each of you take the time to set priorities this year in order to be a more effective teacher.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do.

The Mean Teacher

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Remember those middle and high school days when you accidentally caught the “Mean Girls” whispering behind your back while they thought you weren’t present?  Or people made fun of you, because you were the “overachiever” in school?  Or maybe you were the “most artistic” or “most athletic?”  Most adolescents don’t recognize jealousy and lack the wisdom and emotional security to rationalize through these awkward and painful situations.  However, as we grow older and mature, adults grasp a better understanding of the reasons behind adolescent malicious gossip, social hierarchy, and “Mean Girl” thinking.  One of the main reasons is adolescent insecurity.  As adolescents slowly mature into adults, their emotional banks are filled with more positive experiences to fill holes in their insecurities.  However, even as adults, we unfortunately haven’t resolved all our insecurities.  The “Mean Teacher” exists.

In the educational field, one would hope that adults, especially teachers would foster an environment of peace, collaboration, and cooperation…right???   We all know as teachers that we like to pretend that we are the perfect models of appropriate behavior, but the truth is that we struggle just as much with professional insecurity.  At times, we are the “Mean Teacher.”  Think about these scenarios for example:

1.  In a faculty meeting, the principal singles out one or two teachers who have done a fabulous job on an after-school family event.  The principal sings praises of the teacher, and instead of wanting to clap for those teachers, you want to scream “brown-noser!”  You and a few teachers may even gossip about those teachers behind their backs calling those teachers names…yep, even teachers.

2.  After standardized test scores are posted or the “data wall” goes up, you immediately look at the other teachers’ scores to analyze whether or not you or your grade level has the best scores – admit it.  When you or your grade level doesn’t have the highest scores, you start to discredit a teacher or grade level’s scores by discussing their classroom weaknesses.

3.  In parent conferences or “unofficial meetings” at the store, parents rant and rave about their child’s previous teacher.  You start to find yourself indirectly talking negative about the previous year’s teacher by discussing how the teacher didn’t adequately prepare their child for the current grade level.

Now, some of these scenarios may be exaggerated slightly, but they do happen.  WHY??  As educators, we should be the MOST confident and MOST secure in our positions as professionals.  We have the BEST job in the world, and our job is the MOST important!!  Why are we so mean sometimes????

There are several reasons why our profession can be competitive, vicious, and not collaborative.  First, our nation doesn’t pride itself on its teachers.  If you even glance at your Facebook or Twitter Newsfeed for the day, there is at least one meme, post, blog, or news article that slams a teacher.  Didn’t you know that the reason American kids can’t read, write, and do arithmetic is because of public school teachers?  Not to mention those Common Core Standards are the devil in disguise!

Next, our nation’s educational system places too much emphasis on data.  Data is a wonderful tool to drive instruction, and I think it should be used in the classroom for reflection and growth.  However, when schools display each grade level and each teacher’s data for everyone to see and then encourage discussion on “What is wrong with this data?” it facilitates an environment of competition and insecurity.

Last, schools don’t take the time to build an environment of friendships!  Teachers don’t even need to best BFFs, but they need to make connections and create bonds with one another.  When teachers actually meet with each other as a whole, it’s for rushed faculty meetings, long professional developments, urgent district announcements, or fired up union meetings.

So, what can we (me and you) do as educators to help STOP being a “mean teacher?”  First, place importance and pride on your job.  If you BELIEVE that teaching is the MOST important job in the world, then you will start to treat ALL teachers with respect and kindness.  You will understand that every teacher’s success leads to the success of all children.  When a teacher is praised, earns high scores, or gets a “promotion,” you will be happy and excited for that person.  Next, remember why you became an educator, because it wasn’t for high-test scores!  I know this is hard with pay for performance, school grades, and teacher evaluations based on scores, but things won’t change if our own mindsets don’t change first.  If administrators started praising improvement, then we might just see EVERY teacher earning a praise.  Imagine what that would do for every teacher’s confidence?  Last, try to remember that we are all in this together.  At the end of the day, the children are going to suffer the  most from the “Mean Teacher.”


Ringing in the Year 2015

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If you google “Year in Review,” you can find so many social media sites have already posted videos and slide shows for the year 2014.  Google’s Year in Review 2014 can bring tears to your eyes as you remember events that have touched the world through tragedies, celebrations, and other current events:  Ebola, riots, war, Olympic triumphs, deaths of icons, etc.  However, my personal favorite “Year in Reviews” are the personal ones that pop up on our news feeds on Facebook or Twitter.  I enjoy reliving your memories through your pictures of family, children, special events, and triumphs.  The music playing in the background of the videos or slide shows make it even more emotional!

On that note, what would your “Year in Review” look like as an educator?  Do you ever look back at the pictures you took of your students, class projects, or school events for the year?  What would your movie or slide show look like?  I can imagine that all of our “Year in Reviews” would be filled with pictures of smiling students, creative and imaginative class projects, and fabulous school events.  Maybe our “Year In Reviews” would also document those late nights grading papers, frustrating parent conferences, famous last words of students, etc.  In all reflection, I imagine we have experienced ups and downs just like everyone else.

“Year in Reviews” are great, and they facilitate us to be nostalgic and bring us to emotion.  I encourage you though to go beyond nostalgia.  Use your “Year in Review’ for 2014 to be an even BETTER educator, learner, and person.  You can start by just choosing one thing in your classroom to change.  It might just be the layout of your classroom.  Can your homework policy be revised?  Is there a better way to implement your classroom management system?  Do you want more parental involvement?

Let’s not remain stagnate for the rest of the school year and be open to change this new year of 2015!  Wishing every educator, learner, and administrator a “Happy New Year.”