Monthly Archives: December 2013

Bright Ideas for Dark Days


Bright Ideas for Dark Days

Twenty Tips for Motivating Yourself and Other Teachers

Throughout the Winter Months

When the memory of those beautiful fall days begins to dim, and spring still seems a lifetime away, we may feel our enthusiasm begin to take a dive.  Many teachers begin teaching at 7:00 am and may arrive even earlier.  During the winter months if there is an after school meeting, they may drive home in the dark also.  What are some ways to keep yourself upbeat for your student?  Remember:  We can’t pass along what we don’t possess.  Our students deserve committed and enthusiastic teachers.  Try some of these ideas that have worked for me.

  1. Fake it till you make it.  This isn’t phony.  William James, the psychologist called the the “as if” principle.  If you want to feel enthusiastic, act “as if” you already are.  I learned this lesson clearly during a particularly tough time in my personal life.  It was my job to be at the school entrance to greet young children when they arrived in the morning.  No matter how down in the dumps I felt when I arrived at school, after 20 minutes of greeting one child after another with a big smile and a friendly comment or two, I felt better for the whole day.
  2. Allow for spontaneity.  Change your plans.  Put a new twist on an old lesson.  What is something you have never tried in your classroom before?  Now is the time!  When I was writing my two books for teachers I discovered something surprising.  The story I wrote about was almost always the first time I tried a new activity in the classroom.  If the activity was a success, then I would do it again in subsequent years.  But it was almost always the first time I did the activity that was the “memeory maker.”  Fresh ideas spark our creativity and engage students in new ways.
  3. Build an encouragement folder.  Whenever someone writes you a positive note for any reason, pop that note into a folder.  Pull out all those notes when you need to recharge your batteries.  It will pump up your confidence and make you feel great.
  4. Lighten up!  When you find yourself getting really angry about something, step back and try and laugh about it.  Make it into a comedy routine if you have to.
  5. Read motivational books or inspirational thoughts late at night or before work in the morning.  The morning news depresses me.  I have found that I can’t listen to how many murders, rapes and fires happened overnight and then teach teenagers during the day.  but with the right music and uplifting thoughts in my head, I’m the best that I can be.  Don’t my students deserve this?
  6. Practice kindness.  Kindness helps absolutely everything.  It is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.  I’m far from perfect but I can tell you this:  The times I haven’t been kind haunt me.  Kindness lifts everyone, not just the recipient of the kindness, but the giver too.
  7. Take a class that will help you reflect on your job in a positive way.  I teach future teachers but I still take classes with the same titles as the classes I teach.  I always learn new ideas and teaching strategies in every class I take.  I can also be a valuable contributor to a class I’m taking.  Every time I have taken a class I’ve come back to the classroom with fresh ideas to try with my students.  I don’t care how experienced you are, there are always new things to learn if your attitude is in the right place.
  8. Write down new ideas the moment they pop into your mind.  Try to take some action on them within 24 hours.  At my age, I need sticky notes to survive.  I’m full of ideas that are gone in an instant.  The creativity of the sticky notes compels me to use them to organize my thoughts.  There are arrows, tabs, stars, neon bursts, and 4×6 sticky notes for more lengthy ideas.  Use them to jot down ideas and then take action.  Action will put you in a better frame of mind 100% of the time.  Go for it!
  9. Improve your work space.  Buy a new organizer or select a new picture.  I work best when I’m surrounded by quotes that inspire me.  If you don’t have an extra nickel to spare, clean your desk area.  I’m very creative but my desk is always a mess.  Every time I take the time to clean my desk it lifts my spirits.  What is an added bonus?  I find great things.  I come across a new idea for teaching or writing that I only had time to jot down previously.  When I discover it again, I run with it.
  10. Purge.  Don’t stop with just your desk.  Clean out your files as though you were taking a new job.  that happened to me once.  On the last day of school I didn’t know that I would be taking a new job during the summer time.  I left years of files and had to start fresh.  At first it wa scary, but it also felt great.  I now had room to file all the new ideas and items I needed to do my job now.  Purge as though you are moving.
  11. Record uplifting music.  Listen to it on the way to work and while you are grading papers.  I always play music as my students enter the room.  It feels as though something exciting is going to happen.
  12. Compliment a co-worker.  Better yet, put the compliment in writing.  It will encourage the person receiving the compliment, but it will also make you feel great.  Try to encourage.  Try to compliment at least one co-worker per day.  Make it your own secret challenge.
  13. Set goals that move and inspire you.  Don’t choose hollow goals or goals someone else assigns you.  Set goals that matter to you and move forward on them.  When we make progress it builds our self-esteem.  When we feel great about ourselves we can better inspire and motivate others.
  14. Create a new bulletin board or display in your classroom.  Visually appealing surroundings encourage us and our students.  Look at your classroom as though you are walking in the door for the first time.  What strikes you?  We spend way too much time in our classroom to overlook the way it makes us feel.  Imagine how your students react to your room.  Think of an idea that would engage them. Not artistic?  There are wonderful posters available.
  15. Keep a gratitude journal.  I record five things for which I am grateful every day.  Guess what?  This simple activity will keep you focused on what is positive in your life. You will begin to look for positive experiences rather than focus on the daily annoyances that creep into all our lives. Don’t discount this activity until you’ve given it a fair try.  I think the outcome will startle you.
  16. Solve a problem.  Instead of complaining about how things ought to be come up with a solution.  Everyone will be grateful.  You’ll be a hero and that always feels terrific.
  17. Attend an educational conference.  You’ll rub elbows with other educators who are serious about improving their skills. You’ll return to school rejuvenated and ready to try some new ideas you discovered.  You learn as much from the attendees as the presenters.  Better yet, become a presenter at a conference.  Share a few ideas that have worked in your classroom with other educators.  It will grow your professionalism and theirs.
  18. Change your routine.  Do you have a mental list of things you’ve been wanting to do someday?  We all have a list like this.  Take a weekend trip to a place you’ve always wanted to visit.  Call up an old friend or drop them an email.  Read a book you’ve heard everyone talking about. Start a new hobby or reignite an old one.  Do something different!
  19. Share ideas.  There is so much talent among your co-workers.  Find a way to have each of them share their best ideas with the rest of you.  I once ran a monthly professional development experience at the school where I worked.  Each month I had a few teachers share their best ideas.  I was amazed at how much I learned.  Don’t overlook the teacher in the next classroom.
  20. Don’t eat lunch with the crab apples.  This may be the most valuable tip of all.  Hang out with positive people.  Spend time with other professionals who speak positively about students and those who are excited about making their classrooms and your school a positive place to be.

More than likely twenty ideas overwhelm you.  Some of these suggestions may feel way outside your comfort zone or sound just plain crazy.  But I believe if you try even a few of these ideas you won’t be just counting the days until spring; you’ll be doing things that make every day count.

TEACH...To Change LivesTEACH…To Change Lives

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My Christmas Wish for Teachers


My Christmas Wish for TeachersGreat teachers are a gift to our children, their future, and our country.  I wish that were enough to keep our best teachers in the profession.  However, the truth is sad. Forty-six percent of teachers who have spent a minimum of four years training to become teachers leave the profession within five years. (This statistic comes from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future).  That is a staggering figure.  Almost half of all new teachers spend as much time training as they do teaching and then they are gone.

What is even more sobering to me?  I’ve been a trainer for future teachers for at least two decades now.  I know my students well and keep in close contact with many of them.  I find it very disconcerting that so many of my former students whom I know will make top quality teachers, are the ones who begin talking about leaving the profession the fastest.  The teaching profession in its current state is driving away the cream of the crop.  The best ones have options.  They will be successful whatever path they pursue.  The greater their confidence, creativity and initiative, the more likely they are to look for greener pastures. We are pushing away the wrong people.  Is that our goal?

I know plenty of reasons why teachers are leaving the profession or thinking about fleeing.  But that is material for another post.  I don’t want to enumerate the obvious reasons to leave.  I want to beg great teachers to stay.

Today I want to share my most fervent Christmas wish for teachers.  I want you to continue to teach.  I want you to stay in this profession.  From my heart I want to share a truth with you.  It takes time to reap the fruits of your labor.  Often when you are making the greatest difference, you won’t know it.  It takes sometimes decades of commitment for you to really understand what an impact you have created. The difference you make in your teaching career will outlive you.  Great teaching creates a legacy that will span generations.  I promise you this is the truth.   I’ve lived it.  I know it.  I’m sharing only facts with you that I have discovered (sometimes painfully) during my own teaching career.

Please do me the honor of reading some true stories from my own teaching career.  I know this is risky…providing links to my most meaningful stories.  Many of you will stop reading before you click the first link; but I’m hoping most of you will take the time to read some of my true stories.  If you do invest your time, these stories will inspire you.  That’s a promise.

First read about a thank you letter I wrote to a high school teacher thirty years after I graduated from high school.  Find out how this letter changed her life and mine.

Now read about how a college teacher changed my life in ONE hour.  She never knew the impact she had on me.  Even now, she doesn’t remember my name and doesn’t know how she changed my life in one day.

Once I had a senior girl in my class who was planning to drop out on her 18th birthday. Her birthday was only two months away when she entered my classroom.  See how that turned out.

I’ll be honest.  Twice I almost quit the teaching profession.  Once was in my second year as a teacher.  I ran into some health problems which I hadn’t encountered before.  I blamed them on the stress of teaching.  I was off school for almost a month.  But I stayed in the profession and I’m glad I did.  The second time I almost quit was in my twenty-fourth year.  I went from teaching in the elementary grades to high school and those teens almost ate me alive.  Read about my toughest year ever.

When you bring your own experiences into the classroom and share them with your students, you will absolutely change lives.  How am I sure?  Read this.

So you think you can’t make a difference in someone’s life?  Read this letter a student wrote to me.  Her name was Sarah and she gave me permission to share this with you.  It will take your breath away.

In several decades of parent teacher conferences, there are about a dozen that were so memorable, I know I will never forget them.  Here’s just one sample.  It’s a great story.

Someday you will be so excited about a lesson you’ve planned.  Then that lesson will bomb and it hurts.  Fear not.  Someone will hear you.

Why teach?  Why put up with the moderate pay, the long hours, the attacks from the media, the test score tunnel vision, and the inner school politics?  A 17 year old girl in my class revealed her reasons and inspired even this veteran teacher.

Great teaching isn’t a sprint.  It’s a marathon.  Here are some tips I put together to help the best teachers stay in the profession for the long haul.

light a candle

Great teachers don’t just dump academic minutia into students or give them a list of facts to memorize for a test.  They light a candle within them.  They teach the skill to problem solve.  They demonstrate the  power of persistence and why to fear the comfort zone.  They ignite their curiosity and jump-start their initiative.  They role model the satisfaction derived from hard work. They encourage creativity and build their self confidence so that students will be able to find new paths to success long after they forget a certain algebraic formula or how to conjugate a particular verb form.  Our students desperately need those greatest teachers.  Please stay and make a difference.  The very best teachers teach to change lives.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

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A School Christmas


school hallways

By Dauna Easley

T”was the week before Christmas

And all through the schools,

It seemed that most people

Had forgotten the rules.

The noise in the hallways

Was louder than thunder,

The kids were all focused

On Christmas Day plunder.

Instead of note taking

The students just whined

Even the teachers

Were shopping online.

The days were just dragging

The clock ticked so slow,

The staff and the students

Were wishing for snow.

The cooks in the lunchroom

Served left over stew

The principal wondered

Just what she could do.

The spirit of Christmas

Was lost, don’t you see?

The spirit of Christmas is not about “me.”

She issued a challenge

No, this isn’t sappy,

She gave each class homework,

Make someone else happy.

One class made some posters

For kids who were sick,

One class made some cookies

And iced them all thick.

They gave them to seniors

Who were lonely and blue.

They kept thinking and scheming,

What else can we do?

They took food to the needy

Gathered toys for the poor

They noticed the sad ones

And knocked on their door.

They thought about homeless

Gathered mittens and gloves

They began to appreciate

The ones that they loved.

They sent letters to soldiers,

Mailed thousands of miles,

As they worked on each project

You began to see smiles.

They gave coats to the cold ones,

Spread hope to the blue

Worked faster and faster,

The time?  It just flew!

They volunteered time

Complimented their friends,

But this is not where

The ‘good doing’ ends.

They made new year promises

To keep this all going

It made them feel better

When kindness was flowing.

They’d invite someone different

To sit at their table

Make them feel welcome,

Yep, now they felt able.

You see all those hurting

Aren’t outside school walls,

Some of the saddest

Are walking our halls.

Being kind to a classmate

Is where it begins,

Kids who aren’t like you

Make wonderful friends.

Making a change

Is no long distance plight.

To create the best difference

Look left and look right.

The students had learned this

The principal beamed

The results were much better

Than even she dreamed

Who makes a school better?

Not “others.”  It’s you.

Start with a smile

And see all you can do.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:

Also available at

Book Dauna Easley to speak to your group.