Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Teacher Who Made ME Want to Teach


The Teacher Who Made ME Want to Teach I wish I had a photo of her, but unfortunately I don’t.  Her name was Esther Waggoner and her third grade classroom pointed me in the direction of my life’s work: teaching.  I feel certain she taught me multiplication tables, cursive writing, reading and  many other academic subjects.  Plenty of exciting learning takes place in third grade.

I remember another thrill that school year.  Our old school building added a new wing while I was in third grade.  In the middle of the school year we got to pick up our belongings in our arms and carry them to our new classroom.  But none of these reasons are why I mention her here.  It wasn’t the academics or the surroundings that made that year special for me.  It was the enthusiasm of the woman in front of the classroom.

don't ever do this

Mrs. Waggoner just simply taught with Joy.  Messes didn’t seem to bother her.  Noise didn’t freak her out.  She loved children and she loved teaching.  She honestly was having so much fun in her classroom that she made me want to grow up and enter a profession in which I could go to work and have that much fun.

At home my parents belonged to the “Go Play” philosophy of child rearing. “Don’t make a mess or too much noise.  Do your chores and then go play.”  I was fine with that.  I never questioned it.  I loved to play outside from the time my chores were done to the time the lightning bugs came out at night. I honestly had no complaints.  I hadn’t experienced any other way.

Play with us Then Mrs. Waggoner appeared in my life.  She actually played with her students.  I studied her like she was some kind of personal science experiment.  What was this?  An adult who enjoyed playing with children? I had never met another adult like her.  During the winter months when we had a long season of indoor recesses she let us push all our chairs back against the wall and set up bowling pins.  We’d roll the ball knocking those wood pins down over and over again.  She never flinched.

DSC_0390_x2_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFileI remember one month when she even taught us how to square dance at recess time indoors.  She’d  clap her hands to the music and yell out those square dance calls with enthusiasm while we swung our partners and learned to do-si-do. She even danced with us when there was an odd number of students so no one would be left out.

I was hooked.  From third grade on I wanted to grow up and enter a profession that allowed an adult to experience that much joy.  Mrs. Waggoner is the reason I became a teacher.  Of course I taught academics.  Yes!  Students won’t respect a teacher who doesn’t challenge them academically.  But I first considered teaching because of the way that Mrs. Waggoner made me feel.  I wanted to connect with young people in the same way she connected with me.  It was Mrs. Waggoner’s joy that first sent me into teaching.  But it was the connections I made with young people that kept me there.  I’m proud to say that I enjoyed the profession as much as Mrs. Waggoner did.

When I finished college, can you guess where I began my teaching career?  In third grade, of course.

I went to a small town parade this past weekend.  I noticed that when military people and firefighters passed by, the crowd applauded.  I was proud of everyone.  It was exactly the right thing to do.  I was applauding right along with them.

But somehow I wish that teachers were the recipients of some applause and not just the targets of the media and politicians running for office.  It has become fashionable to criticize teachers just the way too many citizens dishonored our veterans when they returned from Viet Nam.

Great teachers deserve applause.  We’ve even seen too many teachers protect their students with their own lives in the past decade.  Today I applaud Mrs. Waggoner, the woman who taught with such enthusiasm that she pulled me toward this important profession.  I hope I have made her proud.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the

Also available at

Dauna Easley is a speaker who has been invited to speak in 37 states.


How to Encourage Teachers


spread a compliment

In every school (or business or neighborhood) there are people who spread gossip.  We all know who they are.  But of more significance and greater impact are the people who spread compliments.  Those are the people to whom professionals are most attracted.  They make us feel good.  They make the day seem more positive no matter what the challenges may be.  Here is the great news.  You don’t have to be a supervisor to encourage fellow teachers.  In fact in my career I have been most encouraged by other teachers who I admire who notice and mention to me something that I do well.   Who have you complimented lately?  Why not set a goal of complimenting two teachers per day for every day this week?  Take the challenge.

What can make this a little easier?  I’ve been in a couple of teaching environments where there was a small stack of notes in the mailroom near teacher mailboxes.  These might be Pat-on-the-Back notes, Applause cards, or have a smiley face theme…whatever suits your school theme.  When you see them lying there, you can just write a quick note and slip  it in someone’s mailbox.  When we make it handy we eliminate having to search for a note card or hiking it down to the mailbox area.  Any teacher in the building can start the ball rolling.  Why not you?

thumbs upI’ve also heard of building supervisors or district administrative staff members who carry thumbs up sticky notes.  They leave these anywhere they see a nice bulletin board or a creative display within the school.  It can be a post it note with their name on it or imprinted with a positive theme of any kind.  What about a thumbs up sticky note.  I currently supervise student teachers at the university level.  I like to carry a camera into buildings and take photos (with permission) of wonderful bulletin boards and displays.  I take the time  to find and compliment the teacher and ask her if I may photograph the board.  Teachers are always very complimented that someone noticed and took the time to stop and comment.

listen to parentsDon’t forget to help a young teacher.  I had already been a teacher for seven years when my principal asked me to move into a first grade position that became available.  I had been teaching third grade since I graduated from college.  First grade scared me, but I didn’t really want to mention that to my principal.  At that time in my career, teaching very beginning reading seemed like a mystery to me.  How did you start from scratch and create a child who could read?

There was a wonderful lady in my building named June Hutzelman who became my mentor.  It wasn’t any kind of “official” assignment.  My principal thought I could handle this job and didn’t think I needed anyone to help me.  Ha!  I didn’t want to admit otherwise.  June guided me through the first two months.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit this now, but what she taught on day one, I taught on day two.  Her day two assignments became my day three classroom work.  By about mid October, I had the swing of things and I could maneuver on my own.  I will be forever indebted to June for taking me under her wing.   As a wonderful side benefit, first grade became my favorite grade to teach.  I’ve taught preschool through high school seniors and like them all.  But that thrill of teaching very beginning reading is matched by no other thrill in teaching in my opinion.

When I left full time teaching to become a college field supervisor of student teachers I gave away all of my collected materials to young future teachers or beginning teachers.  I mean I gave away absolutely every plaque, poster, desk item, magnet, bulletin board fabric or border, worksheet, EVERYTHING!  At first I thought I couldn’t do it.  But as the time neared, It felt better and better to give it all away.  They carried away car loads full of items for their classrooms.  Two unexpected side benefits came from this.  I brought no additional clutter into my house; and when I visit them in their classroom, I can see my stuff still being used with students.  It feels just right.

blue ribbonHere’s my favorite idea that I’ve seen in the past couple of years.  A former student of mine, Erin Hunkemoeller,  who teaches Spanish in the Northmont School District in Clayton Ohio, sent me a copy  of a sheet that they call Inspirations.  Two or three teachers create this one page sheet together.  Every school is full of great teachers with creative ideas.  Why not share them?  Inspirations is one sheet with three creative ideas that come right out of their classrooms.  They describe them briefly and include photos.  This strategy affirms great efforts, shares and spreads wonderful ideas and encourages the entire staff.  Northmont receives my blue ribbon award for this great idea that is well implemented.  They are working together to TEACH…To Change Lives.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:

Also available at

Dauna Easley is available to speak.  Contact:

Building a Relationship with the Parents of Your Students


Students are backThe students are back.  Your bulletin boards are up.  You are beginning to feel like you are in the swing of things.  Though the general public claims that teachers have three months of vacation every year, I know very few teachers who aren’t teaching in August and June.   And my experience is that the Labor Day holiday in America is really a weekend when most teachers are still laboring away in their classrooms or getting caught up at home from the long hours they have put into starting back to school.

Building a Positive Relationship with Parents

stepsBut there are still more steps to the process.  If you are going to be successful with students, you also need to have a positive relationship with their parents. Often that starts even before you meet them face to face with a summer letter.  Open Houses and Curriculum Nights also tend to be scheduled at the beginning of the school year.  In this post I’m going to talk about making the most of curriculum nights.  Those are the times when the parents come to school to walk through their child’s school day.  In the early grades this can sometimes be handled in one classroom, but as children grow older, often the parents move from room to room following their child’s schedule for the school day.

What Teachers Tell Themselves

Sometimes the messages that administrators and teachers tell themselves aren’t the whole truth.  We tell ourselves that parents come to Curriculum Night to learn about classroom policies, supplies needed, and how much time their child should spend on homework.  We believe parents want to learn about classroom projects and the expectations of the teacher.


When parents come to Curriculum Night they really have only four (or five) burning questions in mind.  They care very little about your preplanned presentation or your beautifully prepared class syllabus.  Here is what they are really thinking.

  1. Will my child like this teacher?
  2. Will this teacher like my child?  Will s/he be fair to my kid?
  3. In this classroom will my child learn?  Will s/he have the opportunity to succeed?
  4. I wish I had the chance to ask or tell the teacher about this burning issue on my mind…
  5. In the junior and senior year of high school there is a fifth burning question.  What are you going to do to help my kid get into college?  This is unique to these two years.  If you don’t address that on curriculum night, the parent will leave frustrated.  Think about it ahead of time and address it on curriculum night.

I promise you those four (or five) questions are what is really on the parent’s mind.  And they’ve already made a preliminary decision on questions number one and two.

The Real Truth

Like it or not…

Fair or not…

Accurate or not…

This is how the conversation goes when a child gets home from school on the first day…

Parent:  “Hi honey.  Did you have a great first day of school?”

Possible answers.

“No.  My teacher is mean.  She doesn’t like me.  And school is boring.”

“Yeah, It was great.  My teacher is funny.  She  likes me.”

Whether we like it or not, it is the child’s first perception of school on the very first day that most influences a parent’s point of view about the teacher and the school year. Smart teachers figure that out quickly and are very careful about the first days of school.  Fearful teachers say, “Don’t smile until Thanksgiving. That way the students will know who’s boss.”

Teacher Fears about Curriculum Night

On Curriculum Night teachers are afraid that one or two parents will tie them up asking personal questions about their child.  “Do you think Nikki has ADHD?”  Answers to these questions are confidential and it would be inappropriate to address when other parents could overhear a private response.  And, let’s me honest, the teacher is probably still trying to figure out if Nikki is the one with the curly brown hair or the glasses.  Those kind of conversations should best be left to parent teacher conference conversations.

Tips for Curriculum Night


  • Smile!  Even if you’re nervous, smile and joke a little.  The parents will think, “Yes this teacher is friendly. My child will be able to approach this teacher with questions.”
  • Be wise and have a sheet listing conference times for which a parent may sign up.  This will help you greatly when you begin to schedule conferences.  ALSO it lets the parents know that coming up they will have a chance to discuss private issues with you.
  • Tell the parents how much you enjoy this class.  The parents aren’t particularly interested in how busy or stressed you are.  They want to believe you enjoy this class which includes their kid.
  • Don’t just spew off rules and deadlines.  Describe the strategies you will use to help all students succeed.  One of my own daughters had special needs.  I left too many Curriculum Nights almost in tears.  Teachers were quick to talk about how they wouldn’t bend the rules or make modifications in front of a room full of parents.  Many of them did make wonderful and necessary modifications for my daughter.  But on curriculum night I often felt like my child had no chance to succeed.  (This was especially true in the upper grades).  Think about every parent who might be sitting in your room.
  • Have the parents pick up an index card as they enter your room.  In the front of the room have 3 questions on display.  Invite the parents to write responses to these three questions.

1. What is your child saying about my class so far.

2. How can I help your child succeed in my classroom this year?

3. Do you have any questions or concerns you’d like to share about your child?

Collect the cards as they leave.

Don’t have them pass the cards to other parents.  The contents may be private.

Follow Up

Don’t just have parents fill out the cards, read those cards as soon as possible.  I read through them on Curriculum Night or at the latest, the next day.  I put the most pressing concerns on top.  For the next few days I called parents or emailed them and let them know I had read their comments.  I would ask for further input in some cases.  In other cases I would tell them what I was going to do to help them with their concern.  My follow-up usually stunned and impressed parents, especially at the high school level.

This follow-up will help you enormously as a teacher.  You will avoid inadvertent mistakes when you find out what is on the parents’ minds at the very beginning of the school year. The first weeks of school are crucial in developing a positive reputation in your school and community.  Parents talk to other parents.  The word will spread quickly that you are a caring professional, or the opposite.  Do yourself a favor.  Every interaction with the parent for the remainder of the school year will be easier if you make a positive impression from the beginning.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from

Also available at

Dauna Easley available to speak to teacher audiences.