Tag Archives: great teachers

Thank You Notes

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thank you notesI love that section during the Tonight Show when Jimmy Fallon writes his thank you notes.  If you’ve never seen it you don’t know what you’re missing.  Tune in on a Friday night and watch him.  I wish I knew how to add some tinkling piano music to my blog site to play in the background as I write my thank you notes to my blog readers and teacher friends.

Thank you…to my readers who put up with my absences to my blog site.  You make me realize what I always suspected of my high school students.  Sometimes you like it more when I just don’t say anything.  I can’t believe how loyal my readers have been even when I have been missing in action.

Thank you…to my blog site for making me feel guilty every day of my life.  When I can’t possibly think of one more thing to write about teaching, you are still there, lurking, nagging, proving to me why I was never able to run a marathon either.

Thank you…to the preschooler who called me Mr. Beasley all year long.  You taught me about the importance of  becoming gender neutral long before society became politically correct.  Is that what you were trying to teach me?

Thank you…high school students who yearned to sleep through my class every day.  You taught me how to handle rejection and keep on going.  I can now listen to politicians and the media list the  shortcomings of teachers and the educational system in America.  I return to the classroom and keep on teaching in spite of the negativity.  You turned me into one of those punching bag clowns that just keeps popping back up. for more punches.

Thank you…software and electronic boards that always malfunction with a classroom full of students and an administrator observing in the back of the room.  You taught me flexibility and gave me the ability to BS my way out of any crisis.

Thank you…duties.  I’m talking about cafeteria, hallway, parking lot and restroom duty.  You taught me just how little a Masters Degree is worth in American schools. You taught me that duties are nothing but doodie.   As a side benefit, you kept my advanced degrees from making me arrogant.

Thank you…copy machines that don’t work.  You forced me to remember the pungent aroma of ditto machines with fondness and nostalgia.  Because of you, I value my heritage.

Thank you…to the high school students who used to tell me my shoes didn’t match, my blouse label was showing, and I had bed head in the back.  Because of your diligence in pointing out my shortcomings I could save the money I would have otherwise have had to spend on a personal stylist.

Thank you…to my teen students who made me feel I had the talents of a stand up comedian.  I remember the time I described a fabric as seersucker and you laughed for five minutes.  Who knew I could be so entertaining?

Thank you…classroom cheaters.  Because of your ingenuity and the training you provided me, I could work for the secret service, homeland security or the IRS without listing anything but my high school teaching experience on my resume.

Thank you…emails from parents.  You kept me from gaining weight as I used my lunch hour and break times to reply to your requests.  You saved me the money I would have spent at Weight Watchers and I appreciate the savings.

Thank you…teen drivers who parked “illegally” in the teachers’ parking spaces in the school parking lot.  You gave me wet hair on rainy days, frost bite in the winter and fewer papers to grade at home during the windy season.

Thank you…to all the students who used cell phones in my classroom and thought I didn’t notice.  Let me just say it now. I always saw you!  You taught me how to keep from screaming at rude people who are annoying the heck out of me.  It was a valuable life lesson.  You’ll need that lesson when you become teachers and are standing in front of a bunch of rude kids on cell phones.  It will bite you in the butt.

Thank you…to the amazing number of former students who stay in contact with me through emails, invitations to lunch and kind notes.  You make me feel that my teaching was valued in spite of the daily evidence to the contrary.  You are the reason I still write a blog for teachers even when I run out of new ideas to share.  I want you to know that you are truly one of my life’s greatest blessings.

Thank 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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advice for New Teachers

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Advice for New TeachersWhere I live it is spring, finally.  Over the past couple of days I have had a bird (the same bird) fly into my window over and over again.  I’m not exaggerating when I say this bird has flung itself against my window hundreds of times.  I thought certain it would die from its efforts yesterday.  This morning it started again.  I sought the advice of friends and one told me to place paper over the window.   I’m hoping that helps.  I suppose the bird sees the reflection of a tree or himself  in the window.  But seriously, you’d think after maybe fifty slams the bird would learn.

However, the teacher in me noticed a parallel between that battering bird and the young college students I observe as they do their practice teaching in a real classrooms for the first time.  Again and again I hear them say the same things.

When I notice that a few of these fledgling teachers call on the same students to answer all the questions they pose in front of the classroom, I ask them why they don’t ever call on students who don’t have their hands raised.  They pause and say, “Oh, I don’t want to put them on the spot if they don’t know. I don’t want them to think I’m picking on them.”

My answer is always the same.

If you use a more random way to ask for answers, no one will believe you are putting them on the spot.  Pull names from out of a jar or use a  computer program that mixes the names randomly.   Whoever’s name appears will need to be ready to answer.  Using that strategy you will automatically engage more students.  They know before you even begin teaching that they will need to listen. 

You also are saying, “I know you can learn the material.  I believe in your ability to learn.”  More students will listen.  More students will learn.  More students will be engaged in the learning process.  You aren’t putting anyone on the spot.  You are saying “I believe that everyone in this classroom has the ability and the right to learn this material.”  If they are slow to answer, give them the time to think it through.  Experienced teachers call this “wait time.”  Encourage and assist them.  You only put students on the spot when you ridicule them if they don’t know the answer.  Teach them.  Walk them through the steps with no condescension.   Allow no other students to make impolite comments.  If you do this routinely they won’t automatically disengage when you begin to teach.

And while I’m still perched up here on the side of my nest looking down on my fledglings, let me address another common error in thinking.  (Lest you think I’m lecturing, remember I speak from experience.  I happened to have made ALL these same mistakes myself.  I have the stories to prove it and I share them openly).

If you have a behavior management system in place, use it.  If you don’t have a behavior management system in place, get one!

“Oh, but I feel bad making them switch their green light to red, or have them put a check next to their name, or worse,  serve a detention!”  I hear my baby birdie teachers say all the time.

Guess what?  Even preschool-age students can quickly size up a teacher who is fearful of enforcing consequences.  And when they do, you… are… toast.  They then will do anything and everything to force you to set limits.  They will push and push and push until you blow a gasket or collapse.  The faster you enforce a consequence, the faster your entire class will come under control.  Students will be learning instead of inventing ways to stir the pot just to get you to react.  Your classroom will be safer and more learning will occur.  Enforce the consequences early, fairly and without anger,  and the situation won’t ever spiral out of control.   

Side note:  Since I taped paper over my windows this morning the bird has stopped ramming them.

Negative Action + Consequence = New Result

Sorry.  I’m a teacher.  I see a lesson in every event.  It’s a disease of the profession.

I wonder what my neighbors think of my new window treatments?  I’m a recent widow and they probably think I’m afraid of peeping toms.  🙂  Only my blogger friends will know the truth.

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

When Did This Happen?

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When did this happen?

The shift has been gradual but upsetting all the same.  No longer are teachers automatically respected for their commitment to young people. When I was a beginning teacher the community assumed that teachers deserved respect for entering a profession committed to helping their children grow toward success.  Parents supported the teacher’s decisions.  If a kid was in trouble at school, the kid was in more trouble at home.  Parents supported the schools.  They assumed that behavior guidelines were in the best interest of their child and the classroom at large.

I understand that respect must be earned.  There is a very small percentage of teachers whose names we see in the media, who clearly deserve no respect.  These situations make me heartsick and even furious.  I am angry that those few sully the reputation of a profession that I revere.

But beyond the few who never should have been allowed into the profession, the vast majority of teachers are incredibly hard-working and selfless.  They will do anything to help a child succeed.

Yet somehow it has become so fashionable to speak out against teachers and schools that it has turned into an acceptable parade of negative comments.  You hear it everywhere.  Politicians, media members, community leaders, and parents sitting on the sidelines at school functions have joined the band of negativity.  Trashing teachers has somehow become politically correct.

During my last decade of full-time teaching I taught high school students in a Teacher Academy program.  This was a wonderful group of students who already had identified a passion for teaching even in their teen years.  They were a pleasure to teach and mentor.  They were such positive role models within our high school. Their enthusiasm for helping others using the teaching profession just bubbled over.  Lauren was one of those enthusiasts.  Most of them are young full-time teachers now.  But many of the stories they share with me sadden me.

Listen in as I share one.  A couple of weekends ago I ran into Lauren at a gymnastics meet.  She is currently teaching second grade.  During the week that I ran into her she had stayed late for Parent Teacher conference night.  A father of one of her students had screamed and screamed at her during the “conference.”

“You’re a fool!” he screamed.  After several minutes of this she finally told him he would have to call the Principal and set up another appointment if he wanted to continue the conference with her.  He continued to yell so she left her classroom in fear.  As she walked down the hallway he followed her screaming.   She went into the first empty classroom she could find, stepped inside, closed the door and leaned against the door.  She was afraid to go to her car without an escort that night when the conferences ended.  She had just purchased her first home in this community.  She was afraid to drive straight home to her house for fear that he might be following her.  The next day the school was on “lock down” worried that he might return to school and do harm to her or children.

What made this father so angry?  His son didn’t follow classroom behavior guidelines and his teacher took away a privilege.  Is there any surprise that the child had trouble following behavior guidelines?  What was the consequence for the father?  The police security officer called him on the phone the next day and the dad apologized to the officer.  End of story.

Now a young lady who is such an asset to the teaching profession and her students, is left wondering if she wants to remain in the profession.  When did it become OK to follow a teacher down the hallway yelling at her?  When did it become socially acceptable to bad mouth teachers in the community?

My close friend has a daughter who entered the teaching profession within the past five years.  People now come up to my friend and criticize schools and teachers.  She is surprised at how they seek her out to say something negative about the education system.  But I’m not.

Teachers have become targets.  Somehow we’ve got to turn that around.   Trashing teachers doesn’t fix anything.  It just drives some of the very best people away from a worthy profession and the students who need them so much.

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

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

The Heart of the School

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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.

rejection

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

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

A School Christmas

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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:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at amazon.com

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