Monthly Archives: April 2013

Why Teach?


Are the Payoffs Worth the Challenges?

challenges and payoffsLet’s be honest.  In many ways teaching is more challenging than ever.  It has always been a profession which demands a person accept a salary which doesn’t reflect the amount of education, dedication and preparation it requires.

However, it used to be a profession that earned the esteem of parents, community members and the public at large.  That is no longer true.  Today’s teachers are blamed for, and at the same time required to heal, all the country’s challenges…test scores, broken  homes, illiteracy, hard economic times, school calendars, the increase in disabilities and second languages, drug dependency, unemployment, latch key children, and hunger in America.  They are maligned by politicians, billionaires, and celebrities.  That is the teacher’s new reality.

So Why Teach?

Why teach?If you look at just the dismal numerical facts and current public opinion,  it can’t be explained.  However, I have been retired from full-time teaching for three school years now.  I do still work with student teachers at the college level, so I am in and out of schools all throughout the school year.  I feel so “at home” whenever I’m in a school building.  Each one has its own unique personality. Listen to some things I am experiencing right now.

  • Yesterday I was invited to the wedding shower of a college grad whom I had taught in high school.  Four years after she left my classroom I am still important in her life.  She turns to me for advice with frequency.  She values the role I have played in her life and the opinions I have.  She tells me so.
  • Not a week passes that I don’t hear from at least a half-dozen former students.  They share their successes, life milestones, and challenges with me.
  • I received a beautiful thank you note this past week from a former high school student who is now a college graduate.  Four years later, she thanked me again for being her teacher.
  • A week ago I noticed a plastic container in a corner of my bedroom.  I couldn’t remember what was inside.  When I looked inside I discovered dozens of thank you notes from students.  Three years ago when I first retired I decided to put thank you notes from students and their parents in a notebook.  I filled a three-ring binder that was three inches thick.  These (that I rediscovered in the corner of my bedroom) were the left over notes.  I had run out of steam before I finished the job.  I decided to finish the task.  I took another two-inch binder to complete the job.
  • When my former students change jobs, (and sometimes even careers) they write and ask for my advice.  Many times they solicit input from me that they won’t accept from their own family members.  That’s not exactly true.  When they were in my classroom, we became a family.
  • My retirement years may not be flush with funds, but it is a wealth of appreciation and valued relationships.  I can live contentedly with that.

Can You?

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:

Also available at

The Danger of Test Scores


Is This Wise?

Is This Wise?There is a great fable about an imagined animal school which decides to adopt the design structure of schools for humans.  Humans have greater thinking and learning power than animals, right?  Someone erroneously believes they can improve the performance of ALL animals by modeling animal schools after a learning institution for people.  But is this wise?

In this new animal school, rather than the teacher being satisfied with the beaver’s ability to chop down trees and build dams, the teacher also insists the beaver learn to fly.  The results of the beaver’s efforts to fly are, of course, frustrating and even ludicrous. Facing such a failure the beaver is no longer even proud of his innate ability to build dams better than any other animal.

What Are We Doing?

Take a discerning look at our schools.  Isn’t that too close to what we really do?  Instead of identifying and capitalizing on a student’s intrinsic talents, we reduce the time he spends in a pursuit in which he excels and simultaneously increase the amount of time he spends being tutored in a skill for which he has minimal talent.  Think for a moment about this.

In a culture in which we are being driven by only test scores, we remove a student from his favorite class to tutor him/her for a class in which s/he is failing.  Did it work for the beaver?  What a scary philosophy this becomes when you consider the implications not just for individuals, but also for our country.


Why do we put all our efforts into forcing students to remediate to obtain mere passing scores in a subject area in which they are weak?  Why not use those same efforts to encourage and push them in an area of their brilliance?  What our country really needs is people functioning at the top of their form in the areas in which they excel.  Ignite the flame in the area of their strengths and watch them catapult forward.  If and when we finally do that, our entire nation will benefit.

Great teachers know this.  They search and search until they discover and reveal a student’s talent.  They frequently are the first to reveal that talent to the student.  They give voice to it, encourage it and often push the student to heights they didn’t believe they could ever achieve.

I’m not the national Secretary of Education, but I think one of the things we need to be doing in every school district in America, is identifying individual student’s areas of brilliance and finding ways to encourage, enhance and grow that talent.  Flying beavers are not the answer.

Want to help stop test score obsession?  Please share this blog post with someone.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:

Also available at

Finding Ways to Make Students Shine


Against the Odds

against the oddsOne morning in our sheet of staff announcements, there was a mention about an “Against the Odds” award.  This award was being sponsored by the largest newspaper in Cincinnati.  The newspaper wanted to feature ten students across the entire area that were having success in spite of some personal challenges.  They would do an article on each student selected and then invite them to a dinner with business leaders. I ran quickly through my class list mentally.  No one was in a wheel chair, blind or deaf.  It would be a long shot even if they were.  Only ten students – not just from the city – but the whole area.  I’m embarrassed to admit that my vision was so narrow about this opportunity.

Thankfully, Jim Wallace, an insightful guidance counselor suggested I nominate Dorothy.  In spite of being born with a cleft palate and having several surgeries to correct this, she was having some success in our high school career academy early childhood education program.  She worked conscientiously and had high grades in my class.  She held down a job after school hours working in a child care center.  Why not Dorothy?

But let’s be honest, this is frequently where the process breaks down.  What teacher has extra time to go through a lengthy nomination process which usually requires many steps including a well written essay?  Not one teacher I can think of has extra time for such a long shot possibility. It never ceases to amaze me how many letters of recommendation a high school teacher is asked to write and how long a good letter of recommendation takes to author.  But I went to work anyway.  I already knew Dorothy’s mom was disabled with serious health issues.  I had to hold my home visit while she was in bed.  I discovered her father had also died when she was very young.

Weeks later we found out she won the award!  What a significant accomplishment for her this was.  The newspaper sent a professional photographer right into my classroom to shoot a whole roll of film of Dorothy working on the floor with preschoolers.  (I ran a laboratory preschool to train my high school early childhood education students).  The resulting photo in the newspaper was the largest I had ever seen.  It covered 3/4 of the front page of the education section.  After all it was the newspaper that sponsored the award.  The program made for the dinner was even more impressive, all glossy print.  She received a $500.00 scholarship from business leaders.  But best of all a young lady was getting a long overdue chance to shine.  She became a temporary hero in our classroom instead of being just outside the inner circle.  I have no doubt that this was an event that Dorothy will remember forever.

I shudder to think of how I almost over looked this opportunity.  It taught me to dig a little deeper and take a few more risks as I look for a variety of ways to give my students the chance to shine.


Graduations will be happening soon.  The same students will receive award after award at banquets and scholarship ceremonies.  The vast majority of students will walk across the stage in their caps and gowns and that will be it.  No special accolades except for the scattered applause from their families in a large auditorium.

Only teachers can make that event significant for more than just a small group of students.  Yes, it will take a little more time and effort…time teachers don’t have.  It may even take a little personal out-of-pocket money.  I always liked to buy a small item I thought represented each student’s special talents.  I brought their parents into my classroom ( all of my students).  I carefully chose and dedicated a song to the class.  That song played behind a slide show of their photos and memories we had made.  I wrote a poem just for their class.  I brought students to the front of the room one at a time and told a cute story or two about each one.  I voiced their talents.

If you want to teach to change lives you have to find a way to make every single student feel significant.  It’s a tall order and I promise you I fell short a time or two.  I am human, not a saint. But as I look back over a long teaching career, it was the times I went above and beyond expectations to honor students, that make me most proud.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities through the author

Also available at

Helping Students Create Their Own Destiny


YOU Create Your Own Destiny

Create your destiny

Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

                                            -Viktor E. Frankl

These words have always inspired me.  Written by a man who survived the concentration camps of the holocaust makes them even more significant.  We cannot control many of the things that happen to us in life; but we have absolute control over the ways we respond to those events.

One of our greatest roles as teachers, is to teach truths about life.  Sure, we are hired to teach our academic areas; but I believe we miss one of our most important choices if we don’t also teach underlying truths that help our students live a successful life.  This quote helped me come up with a way to teach students that they have the power to create their own destiny.  How did I do that?

Early in the school year, I put a dot or a star on the far left margin of the chalk board.  (Think wipe-off board or electronic board these days).  Then I would move to the farthest right side of the board and make another dot or star.

I would pause until they seemed interested in what I was doing.  You can do a lot of teaching in the pauses.  Once they seemed quiet and curious I would say as I pointed…

This dot on the left side of the board represents the things that happen to us as we live our lives.


Sometimes those events are terrible. Someone we love rejects us. 

(Teens always are interested in matters of the heart).


Sometimes we work hard toward a goal and yet we get passed over.  Someone else gets recognition that we deserve.  We lose our jobs.  A loved one dies.  Someone insults you or passes around untrue gossip about you.  Someone steals something from you.  Someone hurts you deeply.

(Each time I offer one of these scenarios I once again point to the star or dot on the left side of the board).    I sometimes ask them to add bad things that might happen in life.

Then I move to slowly the left side of the board and point to the dot on the far right.

Way, way over here on the far right side of the board is the way you respond to those events.


Do you know what is between these two dots?

Usually they just look at me and wait.  Sometimes someone will make a joke and say, “Nothing?”


The only thing that lies between an event and what you do to respond to that event, is your choice.  No matter what happens to us, we always, always, have control over the way we respond to it.

create your destiny

We need to remember only we have the choice to decide how we respond.  We always choose.  It is those choices that determine our destiny.  Look carefully.  What is between those two dots? 

I  then v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y draw a wavy line between those two dots on opposite ends of the board.


You have allllllll this time between the two dots, between the event and your response to decide how you are going to respond.

Choosing the way you will respond, making the choice creates your destiny.  What happens to you, doesn’t create your destiny.  Your choices in the way you react create your destiny.

Teens (and some adults) limit their destiny when they react without thinking…without making a choice.  They say things like, “Well, he pushed me so I punched him,” or “When she looked at me like that I just had to tell her off.”

Wrong.  Your reaction was a choice.

Teens will tell me that their parents or buddies told them never to let people treat you like that.

Look around you.  Are the people who give you this “punch-them-in-the-face” advice… are they themselves a success in life?  Are they living a life you want to emulate?  Well, are they

Or are they in prison or holding entry-level jobs or no jobs even though they are middle age?

You create your own destiny by the choices you make between any stimulus and the response you choose.

Let’s be honest, sometime in life we’ve all made a mistake with a knee-jerk reaction to a situation.  I know I have.  But I later regretted my response.  I share a couple of examples of my own mistakes with my students.  We can teach quite a bit by sharing our failures and vulnerabilities.  They hear us best when we aren’t preaching.

As the year progresses and a teen or two will invariably make a poor choice, I don’t have to say anything.  I just go to the board, make my two dots, and draw the wavy line in between.  No words have to be spoken, though many of the students will give that little hum (or groan) of understanding.

I find it’s best to do this activity early in the year before a poor choice has occurred.  That way no student is made the target of the exercise.  When students come into class all excited about a fight that has just occurred in the cafeteria or hallway, I just draw my two dots and that slow wavy line in between.  They get it. They may say something like, “No, seriously Mrs. E. you should have seen it, it was so cool.” But I just draw my two dots and my wavy line again.

What is My Hope?

a teacher's hopeSomeday when I’m no longer standing in front of them in a classroom, my students will remember the two dots and the long wavy line between them.  They will realize that they have the power to create their own destiny with the choices they make.  They won’t feel they have to become the victim of their own poor choices even if lousy choices were all that was modeled for them.

When I move outside the sometimes confining limits of my academic area, I often feel like I’m doing my most important teaching.  It is when I most feel like I am teaching to change lives.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:

Also available at

Letters from Teachers


Lucky Me

Lucky MeI’m a lucky lady alright.  Not only have I had the chance to spend decades involved in the teaching profession that I love, I’ve also been invited to speak to teacher audiences in 37 states.  Sometimes I speak at conferences.  Other times I’m invited to encourage teachers in individual school districts.  I love to use my speaking skills to inspire and encourage teachers.

Have you ever wondered what teachers are thinking?  I have scores of letters from teachers who write to me after they hear me speak.  They tell me exactly what is on their minds.  Listen in on what they have to say.

Dear Dauna,

… Last Friday, as school ended, I was scrubbing up a whole bottle of dried syrupletters from teachers that had been thrown into the broom closet.  At that point I was thinking, “Why did I ever sign up to attend this conference next week?  I still have things to do here AND at home!”  Now I am so glad I came   You were fantastic.  You have made this whole conference worthwhile.  I get the feeling that you are the kind of teacher who would have syrup spill in your closet too.

… You really touched our teachers.  You gave them something that doesn’t come in books or on the internet.  You shared YOU!  Your human compassion and common sense encouraged them like nothing else can.  You gave them a glow that they will not forget.

…Your stories were so moving and so real.  I came away feeling very proud to be a teacher and there are not enough of those moments.

… What a gift you have to move people with your true stories about teaching.  God bless you.

… I’ve been coming to these conferences with the same group of guys for years.  We really enjoy each other’s company.  Frankly we usually just sit in the back and talk through the presentations.  When you gave your speech it was the first time not one of us said anything.  You really hooked us.

… I knew from the moment you stepped in front of our group that you were going to be a huge success.  You have a magic aura around you.  Thank you for turning me into a hero because I was the one who invited you to our state to speak.  I feel as though I’ve not just heard a great teacher speak, I feel as though I’ve made a new friend.

… You humbled me by talking about your failures.  We all have failures but we forget the positive impact we can have by sharing those failures with others.

… My goodness you are an amazing speaker!  I have never seen anyone, ever, control an audience like you did.

( I can’t help it.  I just have to tell you.  That last comment was written by a Georgia senator about ten years ago).

… You made me think of all the teachers whom I should thank.  I hope and pray that someday someone feels the same way toward me.  I know God has put me here for a reason.  Thank you for helping me realize that I may be touching someone right now, even though I can’t see it.

… I almost didn’t come back today.  I’ve been driving to Columbus an hour each way for the past three days to attend this conference.  Last night I almost decided to stay home and avoid one more day of that drive.  But, because of you I’m so glad I didn’t stay home.  You made all that driving for all three  days worthwhile?  Next year you should speak all three days.

… I’ve always thought of myself as a positive person.  I honestly try to take this into the classroom every day.  But at times it’s hard to smile at the little SOB who gives me a rough time.  But after listening to you today, I make you three promises:

  1. I will smile at my problem child.
  2. Every student of mine will hear the fish story.
  3. I will write my 8th grade English teacher a thank you letter.

… At last they finally bring in someone to speak to us who REALLY KNOWS what it’s like to teach.  I felt like you were inside my head hearing my thoughts.  You have had all my same frustrations but you helped me realize that I might really be making a difference.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me hang in there.

… I came here worn out and wrung out.  You lifted a heavy load from my shoulders and a weight from my chest.

… You know the most important thing I learned from you today?  It is OK to be goofy.  You are a riot!

… Last night I was talking to my wife about how “the job” was going.  I told her I was considering going back into industry because I didn’t feel like I was having a positive impact on my students.  Can it possibly be an accident that I heard you speak today?  Wow, have you given me a boost!  I can go back into the classroom with a positive attitude.  You have reminded me of why I chose teaching.

… You could never believe how much I needed to hear the message you gave us today.  You were speaking directly to me.  I believe your stories will help me be a better person as well as a better teacher.

…I never would have believed I could laugh so hard –  and cry too – in ninety minutes.  The time went by too quickly.  Please come back!

..I’m really not a warm and fuzzy person, but today you have inspired me to work harder and listen to my students more.

…My staff suggested I get you to come back once a month for a shot in the arm.  You touched all of us in a special way.

… I hope someone, somewhere, lets me know I’ve been a positive influence in their life.  Thanks for giving me hope.

Now Dear Readers, Will You Do Me a Favor?

Dauna Casual 2

  • If you enjoy reading my blog posts, could you recommend me to someone who hires speakers to encourage teachers?
  • I’d love to be the opening speaker at your school next year.  Contact me.
  • Are you a teacher who attends in service meetings?  Could you share a link from my blog posts with the person who invites speakers to your district?
  • Are you in charge of hiring speakers for teacher conferences?
  • My email address is the best way to reach me:

My past audience members are the ones who encouraged me to write a book for teachers.  I’ve now written two.  Some universities are having their education students read my books.  Here is my most recent book for teachers.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author

Also available at