Category Archives: Facing Challenges Positively

Ankles and Elbows

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JodiI’m embarrassed to admit this in a blog for teachers, but I once had to hire a tutor to help my daughter, Jodi, with geometry.  She was struggling with this subject in her sophomore year of high school.  I understood her frustration.  I only had to think back to my own first encounter with geometry.  Eventually I managed to squeak out a decent grade, but if the teacher had graded me on long-term comprehension, I would have earned an F.

I asked Jodi’s geometry teacher for suggestions and she gave me the name of a tutor.  After Jodi’s first one-on-one lesson with her new tutor I optimistically asked her how it went.  This is an exact quote of her response.

That woman had the thickest ankles and the driest elbows of anyone I have ever met.

I swear to you that is exactly what my daughter said to me.  She gave me a report on the status of the woman’s ankles and elbows. I was stunned into momentary silence.  Then I responded to her in the same tone and manner she had just used with me.

You know Jodi, I thank God every day that I teach young kids and not teens. Please God, don’t ever make me work with teens.  I didn’t ask you about her ankles or elbows. Did she help you understand anything about your geometry?

Her response?  She just looked at me.  Apparently I didn’t deserve a response.

Do you know what I learned from this?  Don’t ever make your fears public, because the heavens will hear you and set you up for a great joke.  Within a year and a half of this conversation I was hired to teach seniors.  Yep.  I started teaching seniors the same year that my daughter was a senior, thankfully not in the same building.  (The photo above is Jodi’s senior picture).

This new job “opportunity” came about pretty suddenly.  I told Jodi about my job change, but she didn’t listen very closely.  Listening to what her mom was actually saying wasn’t high on her priority list during that phase in her life.  I was terrified and frankly reluctant to take this position, but my youngest daughter needed better medical insurance to battle cancer and the new job provided that, so I signed a contract and took a leap of faith.  On my first day I said to Jodi

Well, today is my first day of teaching seniors.  Wish me luck.

She was completely stunned with this news.  Ah-ha.  I knew she didn’t listen to me.

WHAT?  You’re going to be teaching seniors?  Are you serious?

Her tone and body language told me I didn’t stand a chance of success.  And furthermore, I didn’t have anything of merit to teach a senior.

My response to her?

Well, look at it this way, Jodi.  My job should be easy.  Seniors already know everything.

I hate to admit it, but she was right about one thing.  It was a really shaky start.  In my 42 years of full-time teaching, I thought about quitting the profession only twice.  Once was in my second year of teaching when I ran into some serious health problems.  The second time was in my 24th year, when I began teaching seniors.  They came close to doing me in…maybe even killing me off.

But you know what?  I ended up loving teens.  I liked their humor.  I liked their optimism.  I loved their passion about what they believed in.  I learned to overlook their moods and found ways to joke them out of their occasional surliness.  I got used to telling the boys to pull up their pants and telling the girls to cover their cleavage.  My life is now full of former teen students who are now my friends.  When you teach a senior it takes them only one year to begin to appreciate you.  It is a fast turn around.  As soon as they leave for college, they immediately understand how much you really taught them.

I think I had another advantage.  I actually lived with a senior when I began teaching seniors. I absolutely knew how much they didn’t know about life.  I knew I had only one year to teach them all the important stuff.  I knew I had to teach them more than the academics of my field and I did.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t teach them academics.  I did.  But I knew I had one short year to teach them so much more.

Once I was in the middle of a very ticklish conference with a teen girl who was on a bad path.  The guidance counselor was with me.  When the mother of this girl arrived it explained quite a bit about the poor choices the kid was making.  The girl had no role model for success.  We did everything in our power to explain our point of view, but unfortunately we didn’t feel like we made much headway during this conference.  After the teen and her mom left the conference area, the guidance counselor looked at me and said something very wise.

The world will teach them what we cannot.

world will teach them

I never forgot that statement.  The truth of it rocks me.  The world is going to teach them things that we cannot.  And many of those lessons will hurt.  It made me try harder to teach them any life lessons I could while they were still in a somewhat safe environment, inside the classroom walls.

Maybe Jodi even had a point about focusing on ankles and elbows.  Both of those joints are pivotal points in our bodies.  That’s what the teen years are all about, pivotal points.  Our role as teachers is to help students make their best choices during those pivotal points in their lives, not just memorize facts from a textbook.  Some of those pivotal points come while they are with us.  But many will come after they are gone from our classrooms.  What can we do now to help them maneuver those pivotal moments later?

Just for the record, my teaching life took me in such a circuitous route that more than a decade later, I actually ended up teaching in the same building as the woman who had tutored my daughter.  Her name was Nancy.  She was a petite woman, of normal weight whose ankles appeared to be in perfect proportion to her body.  I didn’t do any close checking, but her elbows seemed fine to me also.  Believe me,  I never once told her what my daughter had said about her.  It was my gift to her as a fellow teacher.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Experience is Ever Wasted

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no experience is everl wastedNo experience is EVER wasted.  In no other profession is this more true than in teaching.  But there are two caveats to that statement.

First, we have to be willing to learn from the experience.  No matter how frustrating or unfair the circumstances seem to be at the time, our challenges will help us grow only if we are willing to learn from them.  Sometimes we learn things we never even wanted to know.  But in every experience there is something to learn.

Second, we have to be willing to share our failures with others.  Why let our personal setbacks teach only a personal lesson?  In no other profession can a setback be such an opportunity for learning. Being a teacher puts you in the perfect setting for helping others as a result of your past challenges.  But you have to be willing to share.  You have to show your students your vulnerabilities.

My experience has taught me that most young people think their parents have never made a mistake. That’s too often what we want them to think.  But we teach our children the most when we allow them to know that we have made mistakes.  We have survived those mistakes.  We have learned from them.

When I taught urban kids, they believed that a teacher knew nothing about real life.  Ha!  I have not lived a charmed life…far from it.   Parts of my life have been embarrassing.  I’ve failed plenty.  I’ve faced challenges and painful experiences that no one would choose.  In fact, my past six weeks would provide material for a dramatic documentary.  No vampires were involved, but this time period has supplied me with just about every other beast of a problem you could imagine.

Here’s my challenge for you for this week.  Help someone who needs it, by sharing one of your failures or painful experiences from your own life.  If you are a teacher, you won’t have to look far.  One of your students is right now walking in shoes you have filled at one time in your life.  Most times they won’t reveal their challenge to you until you have been brave enough to share your own with them.

Mission Possible:  Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to change someone’s life by revealing your own human experience.  (If you are old enough, you will hear the Mission Impossible theme music playing in your head right now.  If I were just a little younger, I could probably figure out a way to insert it into this blog post).  No matter what your age, I hope you are brave enough to accept this challenge.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the authordauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

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

Change that Hurts

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changeIn the last week my husband of 32 years has died.  Two days later the pipes in my house froze, burst and flooded my home.  Part of me is in great sorrow.  Another part of me is numb, but going through the motions of planning a funeral and a eulogy.  My blog posts have been missing for the past two Mondays because I needed to regain some equilibrium.

I’m living the truth of this quote in front of you right now.  Change IS the only constant we can count on.  The status quo is non-existent.

In anyone’s life there are two different kinds of change. 

1.  There is the change we want to make for ourselves.  Frequently these changes of choice occur at this time of year.  We evaluate our lives and decide to lose weight, or exercise more frequently.  We decide to do a better job of saving money.  We may step up to a dream we’ve had or a risk we have been afraid to take.

2.  The second kind of change is forced upon us.  It is outside our control, but change we must.  It may be as simple as new software at work or more challenging… a new boss or business owner.  Or it may be even more dramatic and sudden. Bam!  Your job is gone.  Yikes, someone walks out of your life.  Or one day you may be packing away the Christmas decorations, pause to take your husband a cup of hot chocolate and find that he has passed away.  That is what happened to me last week.  My hubby has had a heart attack and two strokes this past year, but still the finality of this stunned me.

Fourteen years ago I had to say good-by to my sixteen year old daughter, Kelsey, who died of brain cancer.  How did I recover from that?  Slowly.  And frankly you never fully recover from the loss of a child.  However, only a couple of years before she died I  read a magazine article that was quite a help to me after her death.  I have since searched for this article to share it with others because it made such a difference in my life.  (Oh, the power of writing our inner thoughts down).  Unfortunately I don’t remember the title, the author or the magazine.  I’m embarrassed to admit that.  I only remember the message because it was so powerful.  Maybe you read it too.  Maybe you can help me find and thank that author.  I know I read it before 1999.

The author was a woman.  She had an older brother who was outstanding in every way.  He was outgoing and popular.  He was president of his high school class and an accomplished athlete.  Everyone in town adored this young man.  The author of the article was his younger sister.  She lived in his shadow but she adored him also.

This star of a brother went off across the country to college.  He fell in the shower and died suddenly.  When the call came in to his parents his sister was also home.  She watched her parents react to this phone call.  She knew in that instant that she not only had lost her brother, but she had also lost her parents.  She knew they would never recover from his death and they didn’t.  She essentially lost her whole family on that day.

When I read this article my youngest daughter had already had one battle with a very serious kind of cancer.  I always knew there was a chance that cancer would come back.  I made a decision right then, that if the worst happened my remaining daughter may have to lose her only sibling, but she would not lose her mother at the same time.  It was a choice I made right then.  Some changes you don’t choose, but you always have the power to choose your reaction to those changes.

When the cancer came back and we lost our daughter, Kelsey, I had to live that choice.  It wasn’t an easy choice.  It took quite a bit of effort.  But I  I refused to be less of a mother to my remaining daughter,  Jodi.  I would also not be less of a teacher to my students.  This was another difficult choice because Kelsey was a sophomore when she died.  I taught juniors and seniors then.  I had to live through all their proms, senior pictures, and graduations at the same time that Kelsey should have been sharing those experiences.

Almost everything about my life has changed.  My immediate family included a husband and two daughters.  Now two of these four are gone.  What remains is the choice I made 14 years ago when we lost Kelsey.  I will NOT be less of a mother to Jodi.  I now also have a son-in-law and five grandchildren who need the full me, not a shell of my former self.  And that is what they are going to get.

I also will continue to visit college level student teachers, my current role. I will encourage as many people as I can to enter the teaching profession because this role was so fulfilling in my own life.   If I were teaching full-time right now, I would share this story and my commitment with my students.  It is the way I always taught.  Life lessons are as important as the lessons in the textbook…frequently more important if you ask me.  When I have to face a difficult  life lesson, it is the time I miss my full-time classroom most.  My students and I have weathered many things together.  Daily contact with young people can keep you optimistic and looking forward during the worst of times.

Please remember my husband, Wayne and our daughter Kelsey in your prayers.  This is a photo taken of the two of them a long time ago.  I can tell by how little hair Kelsey has that it was taken just following her first battle with cancer.  Kelsey must be about 7 in this photo.  She died when she was 16.  I adore this picture because it shows the love between them.

Wayne and Kelsey

Remembering Wayne and Kelsey Easley

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

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

Bright Ideas for Dark Days

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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

Available autographed or in large quantities from the authordauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Book Dauna Easley to speak to your groupdauna@cinci.rr.com:

My Christmas Wish for Teachers

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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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2012/07/30/full-circle/

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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2012/07/18/the-secret-dream/

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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2012/08/20/a-lesson-for-teachers/

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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2013/08/26/my-toughest-year-in-the-classroom/

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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2012/09/10/teachtochangelives/

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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2012/11/26/dear-teacher/

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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2013/03/11/a-parent-teacher-conference-ill-never-forget/

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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2012/08/13/teaching-strategies/

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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2012/08/06/the-empty-truck/

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.

https://daunaeasley.com/2012/10/15/teacher-for-a-lifetime/

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

Available autographed or in large quantities from the authordauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

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

My Toughest Year in the Classroom

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toughest year in the classroom

Something happened this week.  One young lady I know and love experienced her first week in front of a classroom full of students.  She was hired on Sunday evening and drove two hours out-of-town for her first teachers’ meeting which was to take place at 8:00 on Monday morning, the very next day.  Her new students arrived Wednesday.  She had never even seen the school before her first day.  How did this happen?  Who knows?  But embarrassingly it happens all the time in our profession.  My young friend was tired of the endless interviews for teaching positions.  It was the last week in August and she was determined to take any job offered.  The good news is…she has her start.  Even better news…she’ll be a good teacher.

What was her email comment on Friday after her first week of school?

I used to think I looked forward to and appreciated Fridays.  Turns out I was way under appreciating them all these years.

I laughed when I read her comment.  It took me back to the toughest year I ever had as a teacher.  It was a year I’ll never forget, like a bad nightmare that stays in your psyche and haunts you forever.  I was luckier than my young fledgling teacher.  My toughest year came after I had already been teaching for more than 20 years.  By then I was a confident and experienced professional who didn’t think anything a student could conjure would knock me off my game.  I was competent.  I was prepared.  I was wrong.

Picture This

picture this

In one week I went from teaching primary aged students to high school seniors!  I went from teaching in a private school that I owned to a high school with students considered “at risk.”  I had teen moms, many pregnant students, and kids with parents in jail.  On the first day of school when I asked them to introduce themselves with 3 descriptive words, several of them announced they had “an attitude.”  They saw this as a positive attribute.  They were proud of their attitudes.  I went from suburban type students to predominantly urban kids who came from different neighborhoods who didn’t like each other.  The only thing that united them was their dislike for me.  They all agreed on one thing.  I had to go. Those kids reared up and took a bite right out of my backside when I wasn’t looking.

teacher challenges

I only made it to the second day of school at 11:00 am when I knew I was going to cry in front of the class.  They were passing a basket around the classroom and asking their peers to contribute money to buy me a ticket out-of-town.  No, I’m not making this up.  I was used to children who loved me.  I knew I was going to cry and worse…I knew they would love to see my tears.  Not crying in front of them became my number one goal.  But I could feel the tears just ready to spill over.  What was I going to do?

I was so new in this building I couldn’t even decipher when the bells were ringing.  All day long you would hear bings, buzzes and bells coming into your classroom.  I later learned that there were a certain numbers of bings and buzzes to call each administrator.  The kids knew when the change class tone sounded, but I didn’t.  One of those buzzes started to sound.  Maybe they were going to leave for lunch but I wasn’t certain.  I spotted the closet door.  I decided I would walk through that door and act like I was looking for something in the closet so they wouldn’t see my tears.  I tried not to run.  I tried to look like a woman who was just going to the closet to look for something.  I opened the door and walked through.  It turned out not to be a closet after all.  I was right in the middle of another classroom, not the closet, but I burst into tears anyway.

I got lucky.  It did happen to be the lunch bell.  My students vacated the room and I had a half an hour to pull myself together before the torture began anew.  At the end of my first week I called the friend who had recommended me for the position and apologized to her, but told her I was going to quit.  I called my mom and told her I was going to quit.  But I didn’t.  I hung in there.  If I told you all the things my students did to me that year, you would never believe me.  You would also stop reading my blog because I would sound like an ineffective nincompoop.  I made many mistakes that year.  But I grew more as a teacher than during any other year of my teaching career.

What My Students Taught Me

rejection

  • Hearts that have been rejected will reject others in self-defense.   They think, “I’ll reject you first so you can’t hurt me.”   It has very little to do with you.  The rejection isn’t personal, but it sure feels that way until you understand that truth.
  • Once students know you really care about them, they will be your staunchest champion.  But you have to prove you care about them first.  And in an environment like this you have to prove it every year.
  • I’ve learned you can’t talk to high school students the same way you talk to third graders.  It doesn’t work.  I was used to saying things like “Oh I like the way Megan has started her assignment.”  That is how clueless I was.  Believe me that strategy doesn’t work in a tough high school environment.
  • I learned to cuss.  I’m not saying that was a good thing.  And I never used profanity in front of my students but I was so surrounded by it, I found it peppering my personal conversation when I wasn’t on the job.  I was in my forties and had never sworn.  I still don’t use the really offensive words, but It makes some of my conversations a lot more humorous, because it astounds people who know me well.
  • Other than cussing with my friends, I stayed true to myself.  I didn’t get pulled into the drama that surrounded me.  I didn’t yell.  I didn’t meet sarcasm with sarcasm.  I stayed calm and was able to be a positive role model.  Most of these students had lives steeped in drama.  They needed positive role models more than they needed anything else.
  • That old adage, “The more you put into something, the more you get out of it,” is 100% true.  I have never worked so hard in my life, but I also never changed lives so dramatically as I did in that environment.  When kids don’t have other positive role models, you can make the most profound difference in their lives.

The worth of a teacher

Teachers measure their worth by the lives that they change.

                                            – Dauna Easley

  • That first really tough year helped me grow immensely as a teacher.  It groomed me to teach future teachers.  If you want to be an effective teacher for future teachers you need a wide variety of experiences.  It helped me begin writing books.  I had a message.  I had stories to tell.  I spent 12 years at that job I thought I would quit at the end of the first week.  I learned I could persevere through challenging circumstances.  That alone is an important life lesson.
  • Those kids groomed me, chiseled me and sometimes even sandblasted me, until I became a true teacher.

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

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

Helping Students Create Their Own Destiny

Standard

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.

Pause

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

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

Pause

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.

Pause

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?”

Pause

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.

choices

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: dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com