Monthly Archives: October 2013

This Really Happened in School

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happened in schoolI Once Had a Student Who….

… was copying the work from the paper of a second grade girl sitting next to him.  I walked back to him and reminded him quietly that he was supposed to do his own work.  He didn’t need to copy from Amber.  He vehemently denied copying her work.  Then I pointed to the top of his paper.  Not only had he copied her work, he even copied her name and had writtten AMBER instead of his own at the top of his paper.

No, I’m not making this up.

I Once Had a Student Who…

This happened in school

…was doing something to get himself in trouble.  I can’t remember the exact infraction.  I had him write a letter to his parents and tell them what he had done.  I told him he had to get his parents’ signature on the letter and return it to me.  On the school bus on the way home, he enlisted the help of a third grader who was learning to write in cursive and asked him to sign his mother’s name.

He returned it to me the next day with the giant cursive signature looking so much like a third grader’s handwriting.  The signature touched all the lines perfectly and had the big loops done correctly…just like the ones in our writing guide.  When I saw it, it was so hard to keep a straight face.  I called his mother later in the day and we had a great laugh about it.   I kept the paper for her to include in his keepsake papers.  He never could figure out how I knew it wasn’t her signature.

I Once Had a Student Who

…was a senior in my class.  She had such an inexhaustible need to be the center of attention, she would do absolutely anything to achieve that goal.  Once she made a huge scene grabbing her abdomen, screaming and rolling around on the floor.  It was so over-the-top (and I was so accustomed to watching her dramas) that I felt certain she was faking.  However, given the circumstances I had to play it safe and call in the our school medical emergency team.  They were just a group of teachers with first aid training.  They were most impressed by her hysteria and called an ambulance who rushed her to the hospital.

This really happened in school

Later in that same morning when my administrator questioned me about having an ambulance come to take a student away, I confessed to him that I really believed the student was faking the illness.  The next morning he revealed that the hospital had done an emergency appendectomy on the student.  He was relieved that we had reacted appropriately.

But that is not the end of the story.  Our guidance counselor went to visit her in the hospital (later I also visited her).  He overheard two doctors talking outside her room.  They were confessing to each other that she had not had an inflamed appendix at all and they had operated unnecessarily.  So much for Hippa privacy.  Unfortunately this young lady’s brother had died of blood clots following dental work and she had the same propensity.  She ended up having two heart attacks from blood clots going to her heart following surgery.  She was left with some temporary paralysis in her legs which put her in a wheel chair for a couple of months and on crutches for the remainder of the school year.  She did finally make a full recovery.

When I claimed she would do absolutely anything to be the center of attention, I wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest.  She never once admitted to anyone that she was faking the whole episode.  To her the heart attacks, and paralysis were all worth it to fulfill her need to be center stage.

No, I’m not making this up.

And then there was the time…

I'm not making this up

…a senior girl began coming in tardy too frequently for my first bell class.  Our high school had a great team of people who called home about any absences or suspicious tardy notes.  If a call from a parent sounded suspiciously young, they would do a follow up phone call to verify that it was really a parent calling.

But I had some kind of gut instinct about this particular situation.  I called the parents directly and told them I was concerned about all their daughter’s tardies to my morning class.   I cared for this young lady and was wondering if there was anything I could do to help her with the health problems that were making her late to my class.

You guessed it.  There were no health problems. The parents said, “What?” in disbelief.  She was leaving home promptly each day.  Her boyfriend was calling in to school a couple of times a week impersonating her dad and apparently doing a good job of it.  This gave the young couple some alone time together before she came to school.

The parents went a little momentarily nuts as you might imagine.  But this was a particularly mature young lady.  She actually told her peers aloud in class what she had been doing and also what I had done about it.  She even thanked me for intervening.  No, I’m not even making this up.  She thanked me more than once that year.  She said she had gotten herself into a situation and didn’t know how to get out of it.

However, just like those weight reduction commercials on television that have to include a disclaimer:  “These results are not typical;”  I have to confess that over the years I have uncovered some other teen detours  when they have not been so appreciative of my diligence.  A couple of them have stayed mad at me for the rest of the school year.  But once they live a little longer and become a parent themselves, I think they’ll grow into a different perspective.

One teen girl even said to me, “You better hope I never run into you on the streets.”  No, I’m not making that up either.

Life in front of the classroom has its ups and downs.  No matter how great a teacher you are, you will have your wins and losses.  The losses (even the temporary ones) hurt teachers a little more because we don’t go into this profession unless we care deeply about kids.  It is no small job creating caring, responsible adults with enough confidence and courage to succeed.  But I can’t think of any other more worthy endeavor. Can you?

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Contact Dauna Easley to speak to your group:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Encouragement

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Encouragement

In the rush to enter quarterly grades, hold parent teacher conferences and analyze the data from last year’s test scores, one of the most important strategies a teacher can share is too often forgotten.

What do students need MOST from us?  Encouragement.  Some of them come from homes in which encouragement is never offered to them.  Too many come from homes where discouragement is the main course of the day.

Even those who do hear encouraging words in their homes may turn a deaf ear on the words from a loved one. One time I was offering some words of encouragement to my own daughter, Kelsey.  She looked at me and said, “You have to say that.  You’re my parent.  But other people don’t think that about me.”  She shot down my words just like that.  And sadly she was right.  Much of the world failed to see all the great qualities she possessed.

The Challenge

Stop right now.  Think.  Reflect.  How many times can you offer words of encouragement to students today?  Make it a personal challenge.  Keep track of it if you have to.  Give yourself a point every time you say something encouraging to a student or a co-worker.

Good news!  I bet each of us can think about encouraging words that were offered to us years ago.  Kind and encouraging words have the power to inspire us forever.  I have some that I heard decades ago that I can pull out and replay whenever I need them now.  Why do we forget this?  Because it is rare that we get the opportunity to hear how our words have inspired someone else.  However…remember this because it is important… just because we don’t get to hear their power doesn’t mean their power is diminished.  Encouraging words matter!

Bad news! Unfortuantely the only comments more powerful than encouraging words are negative remarks.  It is sad but true that it takes exponentially more positive words to erase negative comments that we also hear.  It’s a big job, but the kind of people who enter the profession of teaching are exactly the kind of people who are worthy of that challenge.

What Really Matters?

Believe me I know how easy it is to get caught up in the frustrations of the new software that won’t work.  I know how much it hurts when your students’ test scores are compared negatively with the kids from a neighboring community with an entirely different demographic.  The hall duties, test score paranoia, and scripted programs can wear down even the most optimistic teacher among us.

Let me be your zoom lens today.  If you took dozens of  digital photos of your classroom today, how many snapshots would include you encouraging a student?  When the frustrations of the profession start to get you out of focus, zoom in on the kids.  Let the other distractions fade into the background.  Zoom in on the students.  Encourage them.  That is what drew us into the teaching profession to begin with.

Looking Back

looking back

Remember when you were in college and all people talked about was their GPA?  It defined you.  Your grade point average determined if you could get into the college you wanted within your university.  Everyone told you your GPA would get you a job offer.  And to some degree that was true…for your FIRST job.  But once you got your first teaching job, how many people have asked you what your college GPA was?  In real life those numbers fade into the background.

Real life is about persevering during tough times.  Real life is about setting goals and pursuing your dreams.  Living successfully is about overcoming obstacles and pushing through fears.  Life is about taking risks in the face of failure.  It is about choosing the crooked road to live out your dreams. What helps a person do all those things?  It is not test scores.  It is the encouraging words that someone (hopefully a teacher) shared with us along the way.  It is the belief in ourselves that someone planted within us…using encouraging words during our discouraging moments.  Those words are what will follow students forever and help determine their success in life.  At the risk of being tarred and feathered by politicians and the authors of standardized tests, the words you say to your students to encourage them have more power to impact their lives in a positive way than anything else. Period.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed on in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Invite Dauna Easley to speak to your group dauna@cinci.rr.com

The Power of Waiting

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WaitToday teachers are feeling the push to cover more material faster.  More and more schools that I enter are using scripted education.  Districts are purchasing programs which require the teacher to follow an exact script.   In that way they feel like every student will have the same opportunity to learn valuable concepts.  No student will be penalized on the test because the material wasn’t covered in class.

In our race to raise test scores we seem to be sprinting all the time. Teachers tell me “I have to cover the material from pages 75-79 today.  I can’t get behind.  Every student in the grade level needs to be on the same page at the same time.”  No detours allowed.

But real life seems to be all about the detours. Or maybe that’s just my life. This rush…this cookie-cutter formulated approach to education makes me sad.  Why?  My years in the classroom have revealed to me that students learn best when we engage both their minds and their emotions.  If you have to cover pages 75-79, do you even have time for a great story from “real life” that illustrates the concept in a way that they will remember for the rest of their lives?

Sometimes slowing down is the only way to build better understanding.  Activities take more time than merely covering pages in a book or program.  Learning games and discussions that engage students and build comprehension can be time-consuming.  But they are worthwhile.   Do you know what a teacher does when he needs to cover ground quickly?  He calls on only the students with their hands up.  They are tempted to overlook the student who isn’t making eye contact.  We have to keep moving.

When we call on a student who looks confused, one who doesn’t have her hand up, we have to wait and let her think about her answer.  When I’m confused and people rush me I become more confused, don’t you?  When we have the courtesy to wait we are really saying, “I believe in you.  I know you can get this concept.  Your understanding is important.  You are worth my time.”  When a student is confused they need that extra beat.

Great teaching is about allowing the extra beat.  It is about engaging our students with a true story or a lively discussion.  It is about having time to notice when they are hurting about something personal.  Their pain and the timing of their understanding doesn’t always happen between pages 75 and 79.  No matter how great a script writer you are, it is often the detours that include the teachable moments.  A great teacher knows the power of watching and yes,  waiting for those breakthrough moments.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Contact Dauna Easley to speak to your group:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

I Love Tony Danza’s Mother

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I’ve never met Tony Danza’s mother, but I can tell you I admire her.  Why?  I once read an article in a magazine about Tony in which he described his mother’s philosophy.  I can’t remember or even find the exact wording of the  quote, but like all thoughts worth remembering, it has stuck with me for years without having to memorize the exact words. She said, in essence…

Every child deserves at least one adult in their lives who is passionately and even irrationally committed to their success.

Isn’t that a perfect thought?  Isn’t that what every child really needs and deserves?  The truth is my own mom believes I’m smarter and more capable than I am.  Her belief has gone a long way to build my confidence and create any courage that I have.  It encouraged me to personally push toward success.  She is the first person I want to tell about any of my triumphs.  She is also the person I go to when I feel deflated by the world.  When the world hurts me she is mad at the world and she hurts too.  She believes the world is wrong because she is committed to seeing the best in me.

I even like Mrs. Danza’s son.  He values education and teachers.  He is infectiously enthusiastic in every role he plays.  I credit her.

But I’ve taught long enough to face other realities.  Many, many of our country’s schools are filled with students who do NOT have even one adult who is passionately and or irrationally committed to their success.  Not a parent, nor a relative, coach or even an adult friend.  No one.

This leaves teachers with a tough and tall order to fill.  But we must step up to the challenge especially when no one else does.  Somehow every student needs to feel like we are committed to their success, yes even irrationally committed… even if all the sign posts point in the opposite direction.  That is when our commitment is most important, most needed.  Every one of our actions needs to demonstrate, “I’m on your side.  I see your talents even when you haven’t yet discovered them.  I know you have the ability and/or persistence to succeed.  Whatever the evidence I am committed (irrationally if need be) to your success.

Tony Danza’s mom would expect no less of us.  We shouldn’t either.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Dauna Easley available to speak to your group:  dauna@cinci.rr.com