Tag Archives: encouragement

Those Little Moments


teach with passionJust before this new school year begins I was reminded of something important.  Something I need to share with my readers…especially teachers getting ready to return to the classroom or those ready to enter the classroom for the first time.

This important reminder happened at a wedding.  I was honored to be invited and was there to witness a beautiful bride and her groom beginning their new life together.  The bride was a former student of mine, Kaitlyn.  I taught this young lady in high school in a Teacher Academy program.  She was a gal who was always fun to have in the classroom.  She was friendly, upbeat and creative.  Today she has just finished her second year of teaching and is half way through her Masters program.  She is an intervention specialist in an elementary school who also wants to become a school administrator.   Last Saturday she was a bride.

At her gorgeous wedding reception her dad walked past me.  I recognized him easily because he was one of those great “go-t0” fathers you could count on whenever you were up to your ear lobes with a project that needed a father’s touch.  He once helped the kids turn a grocery cart into a  fabulous float “they” had designed for the Homecoming Parade.  As he passed me at the wedding reception I put my hand on his arm and joked, “Hey, I have another school project I could use some help with.”

His face broke into a wonderful smile.  We talked about how beautiful his daughter looked as a bride.  Then he delivered the message I want to share with you.  This is what he said.

You are the lady who changed my daughter’s life.  My wife and I have talked about it for years. We are so grateful to you for changing her into the wonderful confident young woman she has become.  And you did it with one phone call.  Did I ever tell you that?  One single phone call from you and she became a completely different person.  We can never thank you enough.

One Phone Call ??

One Phone Call ??

Here’s the important point teachers.  Listen carefully.  I have no memory of that phone call.  NONE!  Not… one… word.   That is the way it is in the teaching profession.  This has happened to me enough times that I swear to you that this fact is true.

Frequently you will be making your greatest impact when you are completely unaware of it.

The first time this happened to me it was mind-boggling.  I couldn’t believe it.  But by now, after decades of teaching, I know to trust those words and their sincerity.  I cherish and appreciate the moment when it occurs.  We teachers frequently never know about the ways we change lives.  But if you are passionate about teaching and making students feel valued, it will happen to you.  I hope you are committed enough to the field of teaching to stay with the profession long enough to allow this to happen in your life.  The satisfaction it will bring you defies description.

Later on during this special wedding evening, the mother of the bride approached me and repeated the words her husband had shared.  The bride even stopped by and told me in person while her groom verified her words.

While I still have no recollection of that phone call the dad gave me just enough details that I can imagine it.  He said something about she didn’t show up for an event and I called her.

Perhaps she registered for Teacher Academy and then got cold feet about it.  I often invited students into my classroom during the summer months to meet me.  I’d have snacks and let them come in and help me put up bulletin boards or we’d just sit around and talk.

Building a classroom community

It was just a casual event when they could meet some of the other students who wanted to be future teachers.  If she didn’t show up, I know I would have called her to reassure her.  She may have thought she needed a 4.0 GPA to be a teacher.  I would have listened to her fears and reassured her that many students profit the most from teachers who had their own challenges in school. All of us feel like we don’t fit in somewhere from time to time.  I would have stayed on the phone until she and I had built a rapport.   I know I would have done anything possible to make it easier for her to enter my classroom for the first time.  And so Kaitlyn joined my class.

In her second year of Teacher Academy Kaitlyn wrote, filmed and created a video about a program we had in our school called Firebird Link.  This was an initiative that planned activities throughout the school to help all students feel valued.  I wish you could see how creative this film was.  She started her film by showing just the feet of all the students (thousands of them) walking in the hallways of our school.  Her words were poignant.  “Where do I fit in?”  Kaitlyn won the national first place award from Future Educators of America for making an effective video to promote the teaching profession.  I was so proud to see her and her film shared up on that national stage.

Would she have been just as valuable a student if she hadn’t won an award?  Of course!  My classroom was an eclectic mix of brains, athletes, band members, theatre kids and students without any identifying labels at all.  We built a community in our classroom and supported one another.  We had one thing in common.  We wanted to help other students learn.

Some of my best “teaching”, my “change-your-life” moments didn’t happen in front of the classroom.  They happened in those private moments when I had one-on-one conversations with students.  One might show up before school just needing to talk, or hang back before leaving my classroom at the end of a bell.  Some dropped me notes as they left class.  They’d find me at lunch time or come up and chat with me after I went to see a game or a play they were in.  In Kaitlyn’s case it was one phone call that gave her the courage to walk toward a profession she was meant to pursue.  One single phone call.

My hope is that this story will help you start your school year with the goal of making the most of those small moments you have to make a student feel valued.

More Good News!

  • The boomerang kid got a job!  If you haven’t “met” the boomerang kid, scroll back a couple of entries and read the blog post about Michael.
  • Congratulations to all my former students who have landed their first teaching jobs this year!  You make me so proud.
  • I have been booked by several school districts to speak to their teachers and administrators during this school year.  I love to inspire educators face to face and this excites me.
  • A couple of districts are considering my latest book for educators TEACH…To Change Lives as a year-long book club project for their teachers to discuss and reflect on throughout the year.  What a great idea.

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 groupdauna@cinci.rr.com

What Do Great Teachers Do?


Krista Ramsey

I belong to a Writers’ Group at my local, Midpointe Library in West Chester, Ohio.  This past week I was especially excited to attend because we were going to have a guest speaker – a lady I have admired for quite some time.  Our guest was Krista Ramsey from the Cincinnati Enquirer.   Not only does she write beautiful thought provoking articles, but she frequently writes about issues involving education which is a subject near and dear to my heart.  (As all my readers of this blog are aware).

During Krista’s talk about her writing she shared with us how her writing dream began.  She was in elementary school when a teacher, Mrs. Moomaw, required all the students in her class to write a poem.  She chose Krista’s poem and asked her to read it aloud in front of an auditorium full of people.  It was as simple and yet as significant as that…a vote of confidence from her teacher.  It was that very day that Krista began to think of herself as a writer.  “If my teacher thinks I am a writer, then I must be good at it,” she shared her childhood rationale with us.

“I believe a good teacher wills you into your gifts.”

                                                                                        Krista Ramsey

I couldn’t agree more.  Ms. Ramsey worked on her writing craft for many years but she confessed she didn’t always have the confidence to call herself a writer aloud.  She became an English teacher first.  And yet that one day with Mrs. Moomaw and one act of recognition by a teacher influenced her life in such a way that the writing dream never went away.  She steered herself as directly as possible toward that target that her teacher had revealed to her.  Now all her readers and fans can enjoy her written insights regularly.  As a fan of Ms. Ramsey’s writing, I personally want to thank Mrs. Moomaw.

I was struck by the life experiences that I shared with Ms. Ramsey. It was a similar event in my life that fueled my dream of writing.  I always knew I wanted to teach, but I also harbored a secret dream of becoming a writer.   That dream was not encouraged by anyone for many years.  In fact all evidence pointed to the foolishness of harboring such a dream. But just as in Krista’s case it was one teacher and one particular day in a classroom that gave me the courage to continue to allow my dream of writing to percolate until its time.  Without that one particular day and classroom experience, I doubt if I ever would have written the books that I have authored.

As Ms. Ramsey continued to talk with us about writing, an audience member posed the question, “How do I ever get the courage to call myself a writer?  When am I a writer?”

I loved Ms. Ramsey’s response.

If we told ourselves we have the gifts we want to have, how much more of an impact could we have on the world?

BINGO.  That, in a nutshell is the premise of my entire second book, TEACH…To Change Lives.  A great teacher does reveal talents to their students, but they do so much more.  They teach students how to discover, nurture, and have the courage to develop their own talents.  Ultimately that is the foundation on which to build long term success in life…not just inside the classroom….but in life.

In today’s world we change, not just jobs, but frequently entire professions, multiple times if we want to continue to grow and succeed.  Careers will exist within the next decade that are not even on the horizon today.  We can’t possibly train our students for those careers currently.  They aren’t in our textbooks or even measured on current standardized tests.  But we can train students to recognize their talents and give them the courage to pursue those new careers as they emerge.  THAT is precisely the most important job of an effective teacher.

I consider myself a teacher first.  But that is not my entire identity.  Sometime during my life path I became a professional speaker and then a writer.  In truth, my ability to speak to and encourage a group of people is probably my greatest talent and yet I didn’t recognize that until I was in my forties.  Thank goodness I had the courage to embrace that skill rather than deny it as something for which I didn’t have a college degree..  At the time I entered college I had never heard of a professional speaker.  I didn’t know they existed.  My books happened because audience members asked for them. They willed me to write my first book.

Back at the library someone asked Krista if she had written a book.  Her reply?  “Not yet.”

Whether or not a book exists, there are some things I know for certain after being in Ms. Ramsey’s presence for only about an hour.  Krista Ramsey is an author.  Her non-fiction books are already written, she just hasn’t put a book cover on them…yet.  She could write marvelous fiction if she so desires.  She is also an effective speaker and something of a philosopher.  She could be a counselor if she made that her choice.  The teaching profession lost a great teacher when she moved into journalism. I’m sorry for the students who didn’t get to have her daily influence.  She certainly would have been a gal who would have taught in such a way that she would have changed lives in the process.  She would have been just the kind of teacher who discovered multiple talents within her students and willed them toward those gifts.

Sometimes you feel a kinship with a person from across a room.  I felt myself nodding in agreement at every statement she made.  When I mustered the courage to speak she was nodding my way too.

And so it is with great teachers and their students.  We learn from one another.

Show Your Work: Austin Kleon on the Art of Getting NoticedTEACH...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


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

If I Were the Boss


the bossIf I were the boss of the school, I’d give myself a fancy chair,  It would be tufted, comfy and it would swivel.  Since I’m posting this piece the week of Valentine’s Day, let’s make it red.  It’s my fantasy so I can call the shots.

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I have been through one of the toughest times of my life this past month.  You know what helps me when times get tough?  I like to focus on good things.

So today I’m going to focus on the good qualities and traits of some of my former school administrators.  We all are a sum of our traits, some great and some areas where growth is needed.  Today I’m focusing on some of the best things that principals and other administrators and supervisors in the educational setting have done to encourage me while I was in the classroom.

Sit back in my red swivel chair and relax while you read my true stories.  Maybe you might even want to share it with your boss.

The very last school district in which I taught full-time, I had a superintendent named Kathy.  This district was quite large.  It had 4 early childhood buildings, 10 elementary buildings, 4 junior high buildings, 2 freshman buildings and 2 high schools.  The district had an enrollment of over 16,000 students and I don’t know how many teachers.  This superintendent did not interview me for my job, but knew my name, face, and what I taught from the day I walked in the door on my first day of employment.  Wow.

Whenever she would pass me in a hallway she would greet me by name.  She was upbeat and positive.  Since I taught one of two Teacher Academies in the district I invited her into my classroom to be interviewed by my students who were all future teachers.  She came willingly and answered all their questions fully.  Later a group of Middle Eastern future school administrators were traveling the country and wanted to interview her.  They were astonished a woman could lead a district so large. She asked if this could be done in my classroom so my students could also take advantage of the experience.

Whenever I wrote an article that appeared in an educational magazine she would drop me a note complimenting the piece.  I was in awe of her professionalism and consistent encouragement.  I have to admit, if I were the boss, I could never achieve her ability to know everyone by name and face.  I struggle mightily in that area.

Another boss I had was named Herb.  He was an assistant dean (asst. principal) and my immediate up line supervisor.  Herb always had a smile on his face and he was a master of giving compliments.  Once I wrote an article that appeared in a very small local paper.  Several times that day people would mention that they had seen my written piece and say that they had liked it.  “Great job,” they’d say.  Herb said it this way.  He didn’t just walk past me in the hallway, he had me stop.  He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Dauna, I read that article in the paper that you wrote.  I liked it so much I cut it out.  I found myself rereading it all day long.  I took it home and read it to my family at the dinner table.   That was a very inspiring article.”

Herb’s comments and the way he delivered them, made his  compliment one I will never forget because of the eye contact, the sincerity and the specific details he included in his compliment.

My very first principal was named Elmer.  He was my principal when I was fresh out of college. I was twenty years old when I walked into a classroom in his building and yet he is one of the best principals I have ever had.  I wish I had known how special he was at the time.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t…not until many years later.

How did he encourage me?  He trusted me.  He gave me many responsibilities within the building and that made me feel competent.  He could feel my passion and ambition for the profession of teaching.  He never stopped challenging me.  While many teachers balk at additional responsibilities, I never did.  When a supervisor didn’t recognize my leadership potential it always made me feel uncomfortable in their building.  It was important for me to excel. Elmer could see that in me.  When I left his building after ten years it was to start a private school.  He had given me so many extra responsibilities, and groomed me so well, he made this giant leap a possibility for me.  He was a true mentor.

And then there was Jon.  Jon remains an enigma to this day.  He was definitely not a touchy-feely kind of a supervisor.  It would take Oprah and Dr. Phil combined  to smooth out some of his people skills. He could pass you in the hallway and be so consumed by his thoughts and current errand that he wouldn’t speak.  He would walk into your classroom and without saying “Good morning” lunge right ahead into some task that was on his mind.  If you approached him with an idea, he would make a snap decision about it, usually opposing your idea.  I think he felt like he might lose some kind of control of the building if he took outside suggestions.  But what I gradually learned about him was that while making a snap negative decision, he would later take your idea and mull it over in private. If it was for the good of the students he was man enough to reverse his opinion.  I respected that.

While Jon was my administrator, my sixteen-year-old daughter died of cancer over one summer break.  When I returned to school in August, the very first time I saw him, he pulled me aside.  He said, “I want to show you something.”  He pulled out an article that appeared in the newspaper about my daughter.  He pulled this article out of his wallet!  He said, “I want you to know that I am carrying this article about Kelsey and that I will never forget her.”

I was stunned and speechless.  This man with the gruff exterior was revealing his compassionate center.  I was touched.

Later in the school year he was being his normal prickly self one time.  When a group of other teachers walked away and no one else was around I said,  “Jon, you can’t fool me anymore.  Underneath that gruff exterior, I know you are just a really decent guy.”  He paused for a few seconds, then finally grinned and said, “Well, don’t tell anyone.”

His gruff exterior was his armor.  But how can you not admire and respect a guy who would admit that he would always remember your daughter?  Impossible.   The comment was made even more poignant because it cost him so much to reveal his vulnerable side.

Cindy was another supervisor who touched me in an extremely positive way.  Cindy always had a positive word of encouragement for everyone around her.  Cindy had the gift of encouraging everyone. It was Cindy’s encouragement that gave me the courage to write my first book.  She read the very first story I wrote for my book even when that story was in its first and very rough draft.  I never would have shown that draft to just anyone.  Cindy was a blue ribbon encourager and one of the people I most admire to this day.

What do all these supervisors have in common?  They are very different people who approach supervision in a variety of ways.  Most of them have never met any of the others.  There are a few who overlap. But they all had a way of making me feel valued.  When we make people feel valued, they can accomplish great things.  When we make a teacher feel valued they learn how they can make students feel valued.  It is the greatest gift any school supervisor can pass along.

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 groupdauna@cinci.rr.com

The Heart of the School


the heart of the schoolIt’s the month of Valentine’s Day so let’s talk about heart.  Yesterday was a personal treat for me.  I had a speaking gig, but a particularly special one.  I was invited back to one of my former school districts to speak to the secretaries.  First, it felt great that they remembered me fondly and invited me back.  Even better, the day felt like a warm reunion.  I was surrounded by so many familiar and friendly faces.  And let’s be honest.  I was happy to see so many people who had tirelessly and willingly helped me while I was a teacher in a new-to-me district struggling to learn the system.

If you have been a teacher for even a week, you’ve already learned how much the school secretary can help you.  Their charms and skills are a treasure trove for a teacher.  They can find a form, explain the software, tweak a copy machine so that it will actually run copies, and encourage a teacher like no other.  The smart teacher recognizes all this and puts them on the pedestal they deserve.

For just a moment let’s talk about teacher turnover.  Here are some sobering statistics from The National Council on Teaching and America’s Future:

  • One third of all new teachers leave within 5 years
  • Forty-six percent are gone within five years.
  • This figure has grown by 50% in the past five years.

These figures are staggering and yet I know that they are true.  I supervise college level student teachers and stay in pretty close contact with the students I taught in a Teacher Academy program.  I’m watching the truth of these numbers unfold day by day.

Forbes Magazine estimates that teacher attrition costs America 7.3 billion dollars a year!

Why?  I can give you lots of reasons, but I will save that entry for another post.  Please be patient with me.

Today I want to focus on what school secretaries and teacher co-workers can do to help stop that stampede away from a profession that is so worthy.

First, think about this.  Who do we turn to when we are struggling in our job? 

Look at this picture.  Study it.


It illustrates what we do when we are hurting about our job.  Who DON’T we turn to?  Our bosses.  We don’t want them to know how stressed we are.  We don’t want a superior to know how we are struggling.  Our bosses don’t usually figure out the level of our frustration until we are already gone.  Look at this picture again.  When we are hurting, we reach out, but we only reach laterally or downward.  It doesn’t matter our age, culture or profession.  We reach out for help laterally.  We complain and vent to our peers.  We look for their support.  So what can we do to support one another?  Everything.

  • We can listen.  Sometimes that is all a frustrated person needs, just a SAFE place to vent.
  • We can encourage.
  • We can remind each other of our strengths.
  • We can extend a kindness.  Write a note.  Bring in a treat.
  • We can laugh together.
  • We can be approachable.  It is so important to have someone who will welcome questions.

In my experience school secretaries have played all those roles for me.  They have been the glue that made me stick to a job when I wanted to bolt.  They have made me better at my job.  They’ve showed me the ropes when I was floundering.

School secretaries aren’t just the heart of the school, they are most times also the face of the district.  They are the one person most visitors meet.  Most visitors don’t ever see the superintendent or even the principal of the building. I am in and out of schools all the time in my role of a university supervisor of student teachers.  Visitors judge a school district and its climate by their first contact with the school secretary.  School secretaries are the public relations department of the district without the commensurate compensation.  These days they also have become a school district’s front line protection against terrorists.  When I showed this picture yesterday, it got a great laugh.  One secretary said, “Oh, I NEED that picture.”  So I’m reprinting it here.

When Did I Enlist?

When mid I enlist?

The smart teacher who wants to succeed in the profession will recognize the wonderful ally in a great school secretary.

Secretaries are the Heart of the School

The face of the school,

The heart of it too

Secretaries impress us

With all that they do.

They find us the form,

And answer our questions

The skills that we lack

They don’t even mention.

They listen to troubles

And give us a tissue

They fix up our errors

Never making an issue

They explain the new software

Keep our secrets inside

They smile at the visitors

And open arms wide.

They make everything easier

We cannot be fooled

Our secretaries truly

Are the heart of the school.

On a personal note:  My apologies to my readers who have continued to read my blog loyally these past few weeks, even when I have been too sad to write, I thank you.  The statistics on my blog site show me that you have been checking in and waiting for me to heal.  Thank you.  Your loyalty to my words touched me.  I’m feeling better every day and plan to get back into my post on Mondays.  Thank you for your patience.

Also I had a very dear former student named Michelle write to me on my blog site.  I was so happy to hear from her and wrote right back to her.  However, her email address she provided was not current.  Michelle, please contact me again.  I want to communicate with you!  I need your current email address.

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

The Whisper


whisperI was sitting in a meeting recently surrounded by several people I didn’t know.  One woman had to leave early.  But before she left she leaned close to me and whispered, “I’m glad you came.  It is so nice to put a name with a face.  I want you to know that my students talk about you all the time when they are in my class.  Of all of the (people who do my job), you are their favorite.

I don’t even know the woman’s name, but what a difference she made in my day.  More than a day.  From time to time throughout my days, I’ve been thinking about those whispered words ever since.  The truth is I work hard to go beyond expectations for my students.  But without those whispered words from a stranger, I wouldn’t know that my efforts were having such a positive impact. I’m grateful to her.  It would have been so much easier for her to make a subtle exit from that meeting without taking the time to pass along a private compliment.

When I taught in the elementary grades I didn’t have to practice the art of whispered words so much.  In the primary grades we’d compliment students more publicly.  Young children crave a teacher’s admiration.  Primary teachers say things like, “Oh I like the way Betsy looked back in her reading text to find that information.”  “Look at Scott’s illustration he added to his writing.  Isn’t his art work wonderful?”  Elementary students love being praised publicly.  They smile and feel validated and everyone else in the class works harder and hopes a future compliment will flow their way.  A great teacher finds a way to compliment everyone.  That isn’t fake.  Every student has strengths.  The talent is in the noticing and then giving voice to those observations.

It’s when I moved into the high school setting that I had to rethink that strategy.  Older students yearn for more private praise.  Public praise sometimes embarrasses them.  It seems manipulative or can even make their peers jealous.  You can best encourage older students when you sit down next to them and point out something that they have done that you admire.  It’s the whispered words when you are having a one-on-one conversation that stay with them.  It’s the quiet words when they seek you out before or after class that can become a lifetime memory.  They pull those words out and hit replay in their mind for years.  Most of the time you’ll never know what power your words have had.  But occasionally you’ll get a letter or a compliment years later, and you will know for sure.

Here’s what I’d like to whisper back to the lady whose name I don’t even know.  Thank you.  You’ve made my day.  You have no idea how much those words mean to me.

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