Tag Archives: teaching

What Do Great Teachers Do?

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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

 

 

 

 

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

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

If I Were the Boss

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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

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

How to Encourage Teachers

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spread a compliment

In every school (or business or neighborhood) there are people who spread gossip.  We all know who they are.  But of more significance and greater impact are the people who spread compliments.  Those are the people to whom professionals are most attracted.  They make us feel good.  They make the day seem more positive no matter what the challenges may be.  Here is the great news.  You don’t have to be a supervisor to encourage fellow teachers.  In fact in my career I have been most encouraged by other teachers who I admire who notice and mention to me something that I do well.   Who have you complimented lately?  Why not set a goal of complimenting two teachers per day for every day this week?  Take the challenge.

What can make this a little easier?  I’ve been in a couple of teaching environments where there was a small stack of notes in the mailroom near teacher mailboxes.  These might be Pat-on-the-Back notes, Applause cards, or have a smiley face theme…whatever suits your school theme.  When you see them lying there, you can just write a quick note and slip  it in someone’s mailbox.  When we make it handy we eliminate having to search for a note card or hiking it down to the mailbox area.  Any teacher in the building can start the ball rolling.  Why not you?

thumbs upI’ve also heard of building supervisors or district administrative staff members who carry thumbs up sticky notes.  They leave these anywhere they see a nice bulletin board or a creative display within the school.  It can be a post it note with their name on it or imprinted with a positive theme of any kind.  What about a thumbs up sticky note.  I currently supervise student teachers at the university level.  I like to carry a camera into buildings and take photos (with permission) of wonderful bulletin boards and displays.  I take the time  to find and compliment the teacher and ask her if I may photograph the board.  Teachers are always very complimented that someone noticed and took the time to stop and comment.

listen to parentsDon’t forget to help a young teacher.  I had already been a teacher for seven years when my principal asked me to move into a first grade position that became available.  I had been teaching third grade since I graduated from college.  First grade scared me, but I didn’t really want to mention that to my principal.  At that time in my career, teaching very beginning reading seemed like a mystery to me.  How did you start from scratch and create a child who could read?

There was a wonderful lady in my building named June Hutzelman who became my mentor.  It wasn’t any kind of “official” assignment.  My principal thought I could handle this job and didn’t think I needed anyone to help me.  Ha!  I didn’t want to admit otherwise.  June guided me through the first two months.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit this now, but what she taught on day one, I taught on day two.  Her day two assignments became my day three classroom work.  By about mid October, I had the swing of things and I could maneuver on my own.  I will be forever indebted to June for taking me under her wing.   As a wonderful side benefit, first grade became my favorite grade to teach.  I’ve taught preschool through high school seniors and like them all.  But that thrill of teaching very beginning reading is matched by no other thrill in teaching in my opinion.

When I left full time teaching to become a college field supervisor of student teachers I gave away all of my collected materials to young future teachers or beginning teachers.  I mean I gave away absolutely every plaque, poster, desk item, magnet, bulletin board fabric or border, worksheet, EVERYTHING!  At first I thought I couldn’t do it.  But as the time neared, It felt better and better to give it all away.  They carried away car loads full of items for their classrooms.  Two unexpected side benefits came from this.  I brought no additional clutter into my house; and when I visit them in their classroom, I can see my stuff still being used with students.  It feels just right.

blue ribbonHere’s my favorite idea that I’ve seen in the past couple of years.  A former student of mine, Erin Hunkemoeller,  who teaches Spanish in the Northmont School District in Clayton Ohio, sent me a copy  of a sheet that they call Inspirations.  Two or three teachers create this one page sheet together.  Every school is full of great teachers with creative ideas.  Why not share them?  Inspirations is one sheet with three creative ideas that come right out of their classrooms.  They describe them briefly and include photos.  This strategy affirms great efforts, shares and spreads wonderful ideas and encourages the entire staff.  Northmont receives my blue ribbon award for this great idea that is well implemented.  They are working together to TEACH…To Change Lives.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

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Dauna Easley is available to speak.  Contact:  dauna@cinci.rr.com