Tag Archives: great teaching

Do You Want Fries with That?


classroom funIt was the month of May and I had a classroom full of seniors.  I was still trying to push forward with a lesson plan, but most of my students were dreaming about the big moment when they would toss their hats into the air.  In the midst of an assignment Kyle asked to be excused to use the restroom.  Without giving it much thought I gave him my standard response, “Be back in three minutes.”

Just for the record I have to admit that in our large high school building it is impossible to reach the location of the restroom, complete your task there and return to the classroom in three minutes.  But I always warned students to be back in three minutes to try to keep the trip from expanding into 8 or even 10 minutes away from class time.

french friesBut on this particular day Kyle returned within the three-minute time limit.  He entered the classroom door behind me while I was still teaching away.  By reading the amazed looks on my students faces, I rather quickly became aware that something unusual was happening behind my back.  I turned to see what was going on.  There was Kyle walking into my classroom eating a hamburger still in a wrapper from a local restaurant.  For a few seconds I was speechless.  Kyle broke the silence as he munched on his burger.  He reached his hand out to me with a package of fries in it.

Here Mrs. E.  I brought you some fries.  They’re hot.  You better eat them now while they’re still hot.

He put them down on my desk in front of me as my students laughed tentatively and watched warily for my reaction.  I was stunned and wondering how he had accomplished this stunt in less than three minutes.

Really, Ms. E.  I made it back in three minutes.  See?  Look at the clock.  (He pointed).  I promise they’re hot.  Go ahead and take a bite;  the fries are for you.

I made a quick internal decision.  I paused several seconds…for comic effect actually…and then picked up a fry and put it in my mouth.

Ummm, they are hot.”

The class totally collapsed in laughter.  After a few minutes of mirth I continued my teaching, pausing every couple of minutes to eat another fry.  Each time I did this the giggles started again.

I never asked Kyle how he had accomplished this stunt.  It was a point of honor with me.  I like my students to think that I know what they are doing every moment, even when I’m not around.  Teacher telepathy.  It’s a part of my teacher arsenal.  I did quite a bit of internal conjecturing though.

A couple of weeks later I was invited to Kyle’s graduation party.  I had a chance to talk to Kyle’s mother while he was greeting other guests.  His mom was active in our school’s PTA.  I asked her if she had brought the hamburger and fries to school while she was in the building for a volunteer task.  She said,

He did WHAT?

It was clear from the look on her face that she was hearing this story for the first time.

Another student clued me in.  Kyle’s friend with an early dismissal pass from school had texted Kyle from the drive through line.  Kyle put in his order and then synchronized his friend’s delivery time at the back door of the school building with his own request to use the restroom.  Mission accomplished.

Given another teacher Kyle would probably have gobbled his goody in the hallway.  But this young man always enjoyed sharing a good joke with an audience.  He took a chance on my reaction.

The test data purists would probably criticize my reaction by arguing that classroom learning time was wasted.  But in May with a room full of seniors I believe I chose the appropriate response.  True, my students will never remember what I was teaching that day.  But would they have remembered that particular lesson anyway?  But this I guarantee.  If they live to be 100, they will always remember the day Kyle came walking into my classroom in the middle of the class eating a hamburger and had the audacity to give the teacher some hot fries. They will also remember me eating those fries.

That day we made a lifetime memory.  You’ve gotta’ enjoy the fun… spontaneously.  Humor always comes from an unexpected twist.

My advice?  Enjoy the fun when it comes.  Those are the moments that will stay with you AND your students forever.  For the test data collectors?   I also believe students learn best from a teacher with a sense of humor.  When we are relaxed we are receptive to new concepts.  Tension closes the brain down.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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








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

National Education Week


National Education WeekCelebrate National Education Week now!  November 18-22 is National Education Week.   I personally have many reasons to celebrate.  I think it is particularly appropriate that this week is so close to the Thanksgiving holiday.  This educator has many things for which to be grateful.  How about you?

  • I’m grateful that a wonderful teacher, Esther Waggoner taught with so much enthusiasm when I was in the third grade, that she made me want to grow up and join the teaching profession.  Thank you Mrs. Waggoner from the Mason, Ohio school district.
  • I’m grateful that at age eight I chose the right profession for myself.  What are the chances of that happening?
  • I’m grateful that so many of my former students honor my relationships that I built with them by staying in touch with me.  What joy that adds to my life.
  • I’m grateful that my teaching path had its twists and turns that gave me such rich experiences.  I never dreamed at the outset of my career that I would teach preschool, every elementary grade, high school and now work with college students.  What a blessing this rich variety has been.
  • I’m grateful for the creativity a teacher can bring to the classroom.  Great teaching is an art form and the classroom can be enriched by it.
  • I’m grateful that a favorite high school band, the Lakota West Marching Firebirds of West Chester, Ohio, will be marching in the Macy’s Day parade on television this Thanksgiving Day.  Watch for them!  They are not pictured above.  All the photos on their website seemed to be copyrighted.  However, watch for their red and white uniforms and their great sound.

Teachers March Together

However there are some things about the teaching profession that currently sadden me.

  • It saddens me that it seems to be so accepted to widely criticize the teaching profession in today’s media.
  • It saddens me that it seems so acceptable to vote against levies for education and our kids’ needs.
  • It is my dream that all the great teachers in the profession (and there hundreds of thousands of them) will work hard to reestablish the reputation of professionalism in this teaching profession that I love so much.
  • We do this by focusing on the students’ needs and their families.
  • We do this with commitment to our profession. Through our thorough preparation and creativity in our daily lessons we can re-create a respect for teachers.
  • We can’t capitulate to the single-minded obsession about test scores.  We need to speak calmly and with reason until our voices are heard.  Great teaching is so much more than testing.  Yes, you heard me.  Great teaching > test scores.  Some of our hardest working and most committed teachers are being maligned because they are committed to working with a student population who are at-risk learners.  That makes no sense.
  • We need to teach our students lessons about living life successfully in addition to the academics we teach.  They need to learn about the value of risk taking, recovering from failures, thinking outside the box and the power of persistence.  Some of our country’s greatest success stories were the brainchild of former students who didn’t test well.
  • We became teachers 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

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