"Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it, because action has magic, grace, and power in it." Goethe

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Teaching Tip: Celebrate You

Well, it is Teacher Appreciation Week.

Lately, it doesn’t seem like teachers are held in much esteem.
I could tell you some stories…true ones.
And one day, I surely will if that is meant to be.

Today, though, I do want to say something to new educators:

Join a teacher organization. ALWAYS.

Stay connected to many groups other than your campus or district. This will serve you well.

When you realize something is amiss, do something. Speak up. Document.

Never ever think that others have your best interest at heart. Never ever think that school boards are informed.
It is your responsibility to keep them informed.

The students in your care deserve your best. They won’t get it every year from everyone. Make sure they get it when they have you.

You probably won’t earn a lot of leave or money while you teach. Save as much as you can. It is mental freedom to know you are not indebted to anyone.

Many people will tell you what to do when they have no idea what you do every day. They will expect ridiculous and impossible things from you.
Ask yourself,
Will my students be better because of this?
If the answer is no, you have some thinking to do.

Know that a week dedicated to appreciation is not what teaching is about.

Teaching is emotionally draining and emotionally fulfilling at the same time.

The lessons you will learn in the classroom are every bit as important as the ones you’ll teach.

Test scores don’t matter as much as your bosses want you to think.

Your students will remember you. Make their memories matter.

Have a good week every week.
Every year.
Celebrate your decision to teach.

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Teaching Tip: Wait and See

Last September, I met a prekindergarten child in the cafeteria at dismissal time.
She was out of control.
She hit a teacher, called one a mother $)(&@”#%*, and was just generally out of control.
Yes, a prekindergarten student. Age 4.
Today, this same child came up to me at dismissal and smothered my face with kisses.
A colleague and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
Is this child rehabilitated? No.
She is in the office almost every day.
But she’s better than she was.
Miracles take time.
These children need love.
Don’t forget it.

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Teaching Tip: Testing Reminders

How many tests have I administered through the years?
I dare not count.
Years give one perspective, they say. It’s true.
Today fourth graders took the state math assessment. Tomorrow, reading.
What has changed?
Well, I’ve seen TAAS, TAKS, and STAAR. Those before me saw TABS and TEAMS.
The test is not the only thing that’s changed.
I no longer count down to testing day with my students. I don’t go over and over strategies and tips.
I just encourage and tell the kids they are plenty smart. To stop stressing. My goodness. There’s plenty of time for that.
I see no value in the way we test these children. We don’t even have good guidelines for this assessment, not even clear passing standards, yet teachers and administrators are posting all over Facebook how important this day is. Asking for prayers. Really.
Eye roll. A giant one.
These tests are not that important for the students or the teachers. It’s a big moneymaking system. It’s politics at play.
There was a day when I stressed over district scores. Silliness.
A child met me in the hall this morning with a stomachache. I’m worried I won’t pass. This is an average kid, a kid who will grow up to follow any career path that she likes. She shouldn’t be second guessing herself.
I told her You got this, Chicky. Do your best and don’t worry one second about it.
In the afternoon, my students and I took an hour and just read books and wrote. Whatever we liked. There was a sound of concentration that I recognized as real learning. It’s what matters.
Our encouragement. Our support. Our reminding that one test on one day isn’t worth the price some insist we charge.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

It’s colorful and crazy, our fourth graders’ version of Jolene’s crazy quilt from the book Mister and Me by Kimberly Willis Holt.
It’s a joyful explosion of color and texture and we agree that it puts us in a happy frame of mind as we pass by.


Teaching Tip: EVERY Month, Not Just April

It’s April.
That means a few well meaning teachers will Google “poetry” and read a few selections to their students.
Maybe they’ll make a cute bulletin board.
After all, it is National Poetry Month!

Please do more.

Please let April be your starting place.
Are you stuck?
Go to the poetry section in your school library. Start small. Check out a dozen books. Read them. Find the ones that speak to you.
Check out more from those authors.
Decide why you like a poem. Find more on that subject or with that tone.

Please. Do more.

You will be amazed at what a daily poem will add to your life. Before long, you’ll know your students deserve the same.
If you need some starting off ideas, here are two favorites. Feel free to comment with yours, too.
Mother to Son by Langston Hughes
Things by Eloise Greenfield

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Please. Do more.


Teaching Tip: Survive the Tests

If there is anything worse for a teacher than spending the day watching students test, I don’t know what it is.

Well, that is not exactly true. There are plenty of worse teacher issues, but watching testers is pretty painful.

The state of Texas calls what we do active monitoring. This means we perch, roam, glance, repeat. But not too long. Not too much.

I compare the four hours (maximum now, blessedly) in that room to solitary confinement.
I’ll be glad for Thursday when things get back to normal, or our closest version of it.
For now, Starbucks will have to save tomorrow. And when that last tester raises his hand, I’ll breathe a sigh of freedom. Get those tests out of the room ASAP. Get back to poetry.
A Child’s Garden of Verse awaits.


Teaching Tip: Ignore Them

This post is about test scores and the people who try to make teachers feel inferior when the numbers don’t add up.

Reread this post’s title for direction.

Take those two words of wisdom from a veteran teacher, a teacher who has had very good scores…and not so good ones, too. A teacher who has been applauded…and ignored…because of scores. Oh, it’s true. Ignored.

I laugh these days and I think more and more people laugh with me. Many of us are not one bit worried about test scores. We are worried about an illiterate society. We are worried that no matter what a score might show, kids aren’t reading and writing like they should.
Testing season is here. My students will sit down and work hard. And if anyone makes a comment to them about how important their scores are, you already know what I’ll say.
My students are important because they are human beings. Their teachers are, too. It’s way past time that some people remember that.