Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Things I'm Thankful for in Education

I’m grateful for a career in education.  Here is some stuff that I really appreciate:

Parents who give teachers the benefit of the doubt.

Colleagues who are always pleasant.

Custodians who take pride in their work.

Teachers who give shoutouts to their co-workers.

Students who are kind to their classmates.

Central Office staff who ask what they can do to help.

CNP staff who joke with the students when they are serving them.

In-person schooling.

Nurses who demonstrate compassion in the midst of the drama.

Administrators who understand their most important role is to support the teachers.

Librarians who create inviting spaces for the school community.

Legislators who recognize that they may not have expertise in education.

Paraprofessionals who show extraordinary poise with challenging kids.

Opportunities to make others smile.

Secretaries who are patient as they answer the same question for the tenth time.

Teachers who recognize that their students have a lot of stuff going on at home.

Counselors who are gracious with anyone who happens to walk into their office.

SRO’s who spend time in the hallways.

Staff members who jump in to help when their co-worker has a family emergency.

I have many things to be thankful for in my school.  I bet you do too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

I don't know...



I don’t know about that time you had family stuff going on, and you really needed to stay home… but you came to work anyway.


I don’t know about that time you stayed at work late to help a student who was behind.


I don’t know about that time you got a lesson ready for a colleague who was dealing with an emergency.


I don’t know about that time that the student was mumbling under his breath, but you didn’t let it get to you.


I don’t know about that time the parent sent you the nasty email, but you responded with poise and professionalism.


I don’t know about that time you gave the student chance after chance… when they really didn’t deserve it.


I don’t know about that time you put extra energy into planning a cool classroom experience for your students.


I don’t know about all those times you sacrificed personal time, so you could give students quality feedback on the assignments they turned in.


I don’t know about that time you had a disastrous morning, but you still smiled for your students, and you still jumped into the lesson with a positive attitude.


I don’t know about all those times your principal said or did something dumb… but you still showed support to your administration.


I don’t know about that time the student brought a terrible attitude into your classroom… but you responded with grace and compassion… because you figured they had something else going on.


I don’t know about that time you did something special for a student.  Nobody knew about it… but you did it because you care about your students.


I don’t know about all the times you rose above your own fears and anxieties to deliver a great education for your students.


As teachers… you do remarkable things… and mundane things… every day… that make this school a great place.  I don’t always know about them.  But they matter.  And so you matter.  Thank you for teaching our students.



Saturday, January 16, 2021

To a Teacher in a Pandemic

I have seen many stories this year about the academic struggles of students.  Many teachers have a lot of student failures -- more than they have experienced in their entire career.  And it can be demoralizing. But teachers… you have not failed.   You have bent over backwards for your students.  You have given them chance after chance after chance… and many of them are continuing to make decisions that don’t seem rational to us.  While you all are not responsible for the decisions of your students; many of you all are taking these grades personally.  You hurt because your students have not been successful, but you also hurt because you know many of your students are confronted with challenges at home which are out of their control.  And so you hurt because your students hurt.  I always appreciate conscientious educators, but I don’t want you to feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.

 When you Google school mission statements, you will see phrases like:

“We will challenge students to reach their potential…”

“We will maximize learning opportunities…”

“We will inspire students to be life-long learners…”

“We will provide a safe and nurturing environment…”


The imperative of providing a safe environment is the obvious reason so many schools have transitioned to a virtual learning model. Safety trumps “best practices.”  But how do we fulfill our academic mission in a pandemic?  To put it bluntly, we refuse to give up.  We continue to maximize opportunities for students; we continue to challenge; we continue to nurture; we continue to inspire.  


So how many opportunities do our students deserve?  I’m not sure how to answer that except to refer back to the mission.  And consider what is missing from most mission statements.  Timeframes.  Timeframes for gaining knowledge… timeframes for developing skills… timeframes for learning.  The goal is that they will become responsible; clearly many of our students are not there yet.  So we push on.

One of my former teachers became the Teacher of the Year for his district several years ago.  A reporter asked him for his advice to teachers. This is what he said: “Teach every student like you are their lifeline.  You are their last chance to succeed.  You don’t know what each child has been through.  You don’t know how many chances each child has had.”


When you look at your list of students, you may see a lot of failures.  When I look at our list of teachers, I see a lot of lifelines.  Do the students deserve another chance after you have given them so many already.  Perhaps not.  But as one teacher told me, “This is the year for grace.”  That would suggest that “deserve” has got nothing to do with it.  The mission of all educators is about our collective commitment to our students.  So thank you for making that commitment.  I hope we will all be able to look back on this year and remember it as the year we refused to give up on our students.