Tag Archives: teaching strategies

Bright Ideas for Dark Days

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Bright Ideas for Dark Days

Twenty Tips for Motivating Yourself and Other Teachers

Throughout the Winter Months

When the memory of those beautiful fall days begins to dim, and spring still seems a lifetime away, we may feel our enthusiasm begin to take a dive.  Many teachers begin teaching at 7:00 am and may arrive even earlier.  During the winter months if there is an after school meeting, they may drive home in the dark also.  What are some ways to keep yourself upbeat for your student?  Remember:  We can’t pass along what we don’t possess.  Our students deserve committed and enthusiastic teachers.  Try some of these ideas that have worked for me.

  1. Fake it till you make it.  This isn’t phony.  William James, the psychologist called the the “as if” principle.  If you want to feel enthusiastic, act “as if” you already are.  I learned this lesson clearly during a particularly tough time in my personal life.  It was my job to be at the school entrance to greet young children when they arrived in the morning.  No matter how down in the dumps I felt when I arrived at school, after 20 minutes of greeting one child after another with a big smile and a friendly comment or two, I felt better for the whole day.
  2. Allow for spontaneity.  Change your plans.  Put a new twist on an old lesson.  What is something you have never tried in your classroom before?  Now is the time!  When I was writing my two books for teachers I discovered something surprising.  The story I wrote about was almost always the first time I tried a new activity in the classroom.  If the activity was a success, then I would do it again in subsequent years.  But it was almost always the first time I did the activity that was the “memeory maker.”  Fresh ideas spark our creativity and engage students in new ways.
  3. Build an encouragement folder.  Whenever someone writes you a positive note for any reason, pop that note into a folder.  Pull out all those notes when you need to recharge your batteries.  It will pump up your confidence and make you feel great.
  4. Lighten up!  When you find yourself getting really angry about something, step back and try and laugh about it.  Make it into a comedy routine if you have to.
  5. Read motivational books or inspirational thoughts late at night or before work in the morning.  The morning news depresses me.  I have found that I can’t listen to how many murders, rapes and fires happened overnight and then teach teenagers during the day.  but with the right music and uplifting thoughts in my head, I’m the best that I can be.  Don’t my students deserve this?
  6. Practice kindness.  Kindness helps absolutely everything.  It is the language the blind can see and the deaf can hear.  I’m far from perfect but I can tell you this:  The times I haven’t been kind haunt me.  Kindness lifts everyone, not just the recipient of the kindness, but the giver too.
  7. Take a class that will help you reflect on your job in a positive way.  I teach future teachers but I still take classes with the same titles as the classes I teach.  I always learn new ideas and teaching strategies in every class I take.  I can also be a valuable contributor to a class I’m taking.  Every time I have taken a class I’ve come back to the classroom with fresh ideas to try with my students.  I don’t care how experienced you are, there are always new things to learn if your attitude is in the right place.
  8. Write down new ideas the moment they pop into your mind.  Try to take some action on them within 24 hours.  At my age, I need sticky notes to survive.  I’m full of ideas that are gone in an instant.  The creativity of the sticky notes compels me to use them to organize my thoughts.  There are arrows, tabs, stars, neon bursts, and 4×6 sticky notes for more lengthy ideas.  Use them to jot down ideas and then take action.  Action will put you in a better frame of mind 100% of the time.  Go for it!
  9. Improve your work space.  Buy a new organizer or select a new picture.  I work best when I’m surrounded by quotes that inspire me.  If you don’t have an extra nickel to spare, clean your desk area.  I’m very creative but my desk is always a mess.  Every time I take the time to clean my desk it lifts my spirits.  What is an added bonus?  I find great things.  I come across a new idea for teaching or writing that I only had time to jot down previously.  When I discover it again, I run with it.
  10. Purge.  Don’t stop with just your desk.  Clean out your files as though you were taking a new job.  that happened to me once.  On the last day of school I didn’t know that I would be taking a new job during the summer time.  I left years of files and had to start fresh.  At first it wa scary, but it also felt great.  I now had room to file all the new ideas and items I needed to do my job now.  Purge as though you are moving.
  11. Record uplifting music.  Listen to it on the way to work and while you are grading papers.  I always play music as my students enter the room.  It feels as though something exciting is going to happen.
  12. Compliment a co-worker.  Better yet, put the compliment in writing.  It will encourage the person receiving the compliment, but it will also make you feel great.  Try to encourage.  Try to compliment at least one co-worker per day.  Make it your own secret challenge.
  13. Set goals that move and inspire you.  Don’t choose hollow goals or goals someone else assigns you.  Set goals that matter to you and move forward on them.  When we make progress it builds our self-esteem.  When we feel great about ourselves we can better inspire and motivate others.
  14. Create a new bulletin board or display in your classroom.  Visually appealing surroundings encourage us and our students.  Look at your classroom as though you are walking in the door for the first time.  What strikes you?  We spend way too much time in our classroom to overlook the way it makes us feel.  Imagine how your students react to your room.  Think of an idea that would engage them. Not artistic?  There are wonderful posters available.
  15. Keep a gratitude journal.  I record five things for which I am grateful every day.  Guess what?  This simple activity will keep you focused on what is positive in your life. You will begin to look for positive experiences rather than focus on the daily annoyances that creep into all our lives. Don’t discount this activity until you’ve given it a fair try.  I think the outcome will startle you.
  16. Solve a problem.  Instead of complaining about how things ought to be come up with a solution.  Everyone will be grateful.  You’ll be a hero and that always feels terrific.
  17. Attend an educational conference.  You’ll rub elbows with other educators who are serious about improving their skills. You’ll return to school rejuvenated and ready to try some new ideas you discovered.  You learn as much from the attendees as the presenters.  Better yet, become a presenter at a conference.  Share a few ideas that have worked in your classroom with other educators.  It will grow your professionalism and theirs.
  18. Change your routine.  Do you have a mental list of things you’ve been wanting to do someday?  We all have a list like this.  Take a weekend trip to a place you’ve always wanted to visit.  Call up an old friend or drop them an email.  Read a book you’ve heard everyone talking about. Start a new hobby or reignite an old one.  Do something different!
  19. Share ideas.  There is so much talent among your co-workers.  Find a way to have each of them share their best ideas with the rest of you.  I once ran a monthly professional development experience at the school where I worked.  Each month I had a few teachers share their best ideas.  I was amazed at how much I learned.  Don’t overlook the teacher in the next classroom.
  20. Don’t eat lunch with the crab apples.  This may be the most valuable tip of all.  Hang out with positive people.  Spend time with other professionals who speak positively about students and those who are excited about making their classrooms and your school a positive place to be.

More than likely twenty ideas overwhelm you.  Some of these suggestions may feel way outside your comfort zone or sound just plain crazy.  But I believe if you try even a few of these ideas you won’t be just counting the days until spring; you’ll be doing things that make every day count.

TEACH...To Change LivesTEACH…To Change Lives

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

Also available at Amazon.com

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

My Christmas Wish for Teachers

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My Christmas Wish for TeachersGreat teachers are a gift to our children, their future, and our country.  I wish that were enough to keep our best teachers in the profession.  However, the truth is sad. Forty-six percent of teachers who have spent a minimum of four years training to become teachers leave the profession within five years. (This statistic comes from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future).  That is a staggering figure.  Almost half of all new teachers spend as much time training as they do teaching and then they are gone.

What is even more sobering to me?  I’ve been a trainer for future teachers for at least two decades now.  I know my students well and keep in close contact with many of them.  I find it very disconcerting that so many of my former students whom I know will make top quality teachers, are the ones who begin talking about leaving the profession the fastest.  The teaching profession in its current state is driving away the cream of the crop.  The best ones have options.  They will be successful whatever path they pursue.  The greater their confidence, creativity and initiative, the more likely they are to look for greener pastures. We are pushing away the wrong people.  Is that our goal?

I know plenty of reasons why teachers are leaving the profession or thinking about fleeing.  But that is material for another post.  I don’t want to enumerate the obvious reasons to leave.  I want to beg great teachers to stay.

Today I want to share my most fervent Christmas wish for teachers.  I want you to continue to teach.  I want you to stay in this profession.  From my heart I want to share a truth with you.  It takes time to reap the fruits of your labor.  Often when you are making the greatest difference, you won’t know it.  It takes sometimes decades of commitment for you to really understand what an impact you have created. The difference you make in your teaching career will outlive you.  Great teaching creates a legacy that will span generations.  I promise you this is the truth.   I’ve lived it.  I know it.  I’m sharing only facts with you that I have discovered (sometimes painfully) during my own teaching career.

Please do me the honor of reading some true stories from my own teaching career.  I know this is risky…providing links to my most meaningful stories.  Many of you will stop reading before you click the first link; but I’m hoping most of you will take the time to read some of my true stories.  If you do invest your time, these stories will inspire you.  That’s a promise.

First read about a thank you letter I wrote to a high school teacher thirty years after I graduated from high school.  Find out how this letter changed her life and mine.

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

Now read about how a college teacher changed my life in ONE hour.  She never knew the impact she had on me.  Even now, she doesn’t remember my name and doesn’t know how she changed my life in one day.

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

Once I had a senior girl in my class who was planning to drop out on her 18th birthday. Her birthday was only two months away when she entered my classroom.  See how that turned out.

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

I’ll be honest.  Twice I almost quit the teaching profession.  Once was in my second year as a teacher.  I ran into some health problems which I hadn’t encountered before.  I blamed them on the stress of teaching.  I was off school for almost a month.  But I stayed in the profession and I’m glad I did.  The second time I almost quit was in my twenty-fourth year.  I went from teaching in the elementary grades to high school and those teens almost ate me alive.  Read about my toughest year ever.

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

When you bring your own experiences into the classroom and share them with your students, you will absolutely change lives.  How am I sure?  Read this.

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

So you think you can’t make a difference in someone’s life?  Read this letter a student wrote to me.  Her name was Sarah and she gave me permission to share this with you.  It will take your breath away.

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

In several decades of parent teacher conferences, there are about a dozen that were so memorable, I know I will never forget them.  Here’s just one sample.  It’s a great story.

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

Someday you will be so excited about a lesson you’ve planned.  Then that lesson will bomb and it hurts.  Fear not.  Someone will hear you.

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

Why teach?  Why put up with the moderate pay, the long hours, the attacks from the media, the test score tunnel vision, and the inner school politics?  A 17 year old girl in my class revealed her reasons and inspired even this veteran teacher.

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

Great teaching isn’t a sprint.  It’s a marathon.  Here are some tips I put together to help the best teachers stay in the profession for the long haul.

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

light a candle

Great teachers don’t just dump academic minutia into students or give them a list of facts to memorize for a test.  They light a candle within them.  They teach the skill to problem solve.  They demonstrate the  power of persistence and why to fear the comfort zone.  They ignite their curiosity and jump-start their initiative.  They role model the satisfaction derived from hard work. They encourage creativity and build their self confidence so that students will be able to find new paths to success long after they forget a certain algebraic formula or how to conjugate a particular verb form.  Our students desperately need those greatest teachers.  Please stay and make a difference.  The very best teachers teach to change lives.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

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

Also available at Amazon.com

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

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

National Education Week

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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

The Whisper

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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

This Really Happened in School

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happened in schoolI Once Had a Student Who….

… was copying the work from the paper of a second grade girl sitting next to him.  I walked back to him and reminded him quietly that he was supposed to do his own work.  He didn’t need to copy from Amber.  He vehemently denied copying her work.  Then I pointed to the top of his paper.  Not only had he copied her work, he even copied her name and had writtten AMBER instead of his own at the top of his paper.

No, I’m not making this up.

I Once Had a Student Who…

This happened in school

…was doing something to get himself in trouble.  I can’t remember the exact infraction.  I had him write a letter to his parents and tell them what he had done.  I told him he had to get his parents’ signature on the letter and return it to me.  On the school bus on the way home, he enlisted the help of a third grader who was learning to write in cursive and asked him to sign his mother’s name.

He returned it to me the next day with the giant cursive signature looking so much like a third grader’s handwriting.  The signature touched all the lines perfectly and had the big loops done correctly…just like the ones in our writing guide.  When I saw it, it was so hard to keep a straight face.  I called his mother later in the day and we had a great laugh about it.   I kept the paper for her to include in his keepsake papers.  He never could figure out how I knew it wasn’t her signature.

I Once Had a Student Who

…was a senior in my class.  She had such an inexhaustible need to be the center of attention, she would do absolutely anything to achieve that goal.  Once she made a huge scene grabbing her abdomen, screaming and rolling around on the floor.  It was so over-the-top (and I was so accustomed to watching her dramas) that I felt certain she was faking.  However, given the circumstances I had to play it safe and call in the our school medical emergency team.  They were just a group of teachers with first aid training.  They were most impressed by her hysteria and called an ambulance who rushed her to the hospital.

This really happened in school

Later in that same morning when my administrator questioned me about having an ambulance come to take a student away, I confessed to him that I really believed the student was faking the illness.  The next morning he revealed that the hospital had done an emergency appendectomy on the student.  He was relieved that we had reacted appropriately.

But that is not the end of the story.  Our guidance counselor went to visit her in the hospital (later I also visited her).  He overheard two doctors talking outside her room.  They were confessing to each other that she had not had an inflamed appendix at all and they had operated unnecessarily.  So much for Hippa privacy.  Unfortunately this young lady’s brother had died of blood clots following dental work and she had the same propensity.  She ended up having two heart attacks from blood clots going to her heart following surgery.  She was left with some temporary paralysis in her legs which put her in a wheel chair for a couple of months and on crutches for the remainder of the school year.  She did finally make a full recovery.

When I claimed she would do absolutely anything to be the center of attention, I wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest.  She never once admitted to anyone that she was faking the whole episode.  To her the heart attacks, and paralysis were all worth it to fulfill her need to be center stage.

No, I’m not making this up.

And then there was the time…

I'm not making this up

…a senior girl began coming in tardy too frequently for my first bell class.  Our high school had a great team of people who called home about any absences or suspicious tardy notes.  If a call from a parent sounded suspiciously young, they would do a follow up phone call to verify that it was really a parent calling.

But I had some kind of gut instinct about this particular situation.  I called the parents directly and told them I was concerned about all their daughter’s tardies to my morning class.   I cared for this young lady and was wondering if there was anything I could do to help her with the health problems that were making her late to my class.

You guessed it.  There were no health problems. The parents said, “What?” in disbelief.  She was leaving home promptly each day.  Her boyfriend was calling in to school a couple of times a week impersonating her dad and apparently doing a good job of it.  This gave the young couple some alone time together before she came to school.

The parents went a little momentarily nuts as you might imagine.  But this was a particularly mature young lady.  She actually told her peers aloud in class what she had been doing and also what I had done about it.  She even thanked me for intervening.  No, I’m not even making this up.  She thanked me more than once that year.  She said she had gotten herself into a situation and didn’t know how to get out of it.

However, just like those weight reduction commercials on television that have to include a disclaimer:  “These results are not typical;”  I have to confess that over the years I have uncovered some other teen detours  when they have not been so appreciative of my diligence.  A couple of them have stayed mad at me for the rest of the school year.  But once they live a little longer and become a parent themselves, I think they’ll grow into a different perspective.

One teen girl even said to me, “You better hope I never run into you on the streets.”  No, I’m not making that up either.

Life in front of the classroom has its ups and downs.  No matter how great a teacher you are, you will have your wins and losses.  The losses (even the temporary ones) hurt teachers a little more because we don’t go into this profession unless we care deeply about kids.  It is no small job creating caring, responsible adults with enough confidence and courage to succeed.  But I can’t think of any other more worthy endeavor. Can 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

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

Encouragement

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Encouragement

In the rush to enter quarterly grades, hold parent teacher conferences and analyze the data from last year’s test scores, one of the most important strategies a teacher can share is too often forgotten.

What do students need MOST from us?  Encouragement.  Some of them come from homes in which encouragement is never offered to them.  Too many come from homes where discouragement is the main course of the day.

Even those who do hear encouraging words in their homes may turn a deaf ear on the words from a loved one. One time I was offering some words of encouragement to my own daughter, Kelsey.  She looked at me and said, “You have to say that.  You’re my parent.  But other people don’t think that about me.”  She shot down my words just like that.  And sadly she was right.  Much of the world failed to see all the great qualities she possessed.

The Challenge

Stop right now.  Think.  Reflect.  How many times can you offer words of encouragement to students today?  Make it a personal challenge.  Keep track of it if you have to.  Give yourself a point every time you say something encouraging to a student or a co-worker.

Good news!  I bet each of us can think about encouraging words that were offered to us years ago.  Kind and encouraging words have the power to inspire us forever.  I have some that I heard decades ago that I can pull out and replay whenever I need them now.  Why do we forget this?  Because it is rare that we get the opportunity to hear how our words have inspired someone else.  However…remember this because it is important… just because we don’t get to hear their power doesn’t mean their power is diminished.  Encouraging words matter!

Bad news! Unfortuantely the only comments more powerful than encouraging words are negative remarks.  It is sad but true that it takes exponentially more positive words to erase negative comments that we also hear.  It’s a big job, but the kind of people who enter the profession of teaching are exactly the kind of people who are worthy of that challenge.

What Really Matters?

Believe me I know how easy it is to get caught up in the frustrations of the new software that won’t work.  I know how much it hurts when your students’ test scores are compared negatively with the kids from a neighboring community with an entirely different demographic.  The hall duties, test score paranoia, and scripted programs can wear down even the most optimistic teacher among us.

Let me be your zoom lens today.  If you took dozens of  digital photos of your classroom today, how many snapshots would include you encouraging a student?  When the frustrations of the profession start to get you out of focus, zoom in on the kids.  Let the other distractions fade into the background.  Zoom in on the students.  Encourage them.  That is what drew us into the teaching profession to begin with.

Looking Back

looking back

Remember when you were in college and all people talked about was their GPA?  It defined you.  Your grade point average determined if you could get into the college you wanted within your university.  Everyone told you your GPA would get you a job offer.  And to some degree that was true…for your FIRST job.  But once you got your first teaching job, how many people have asked you what your college GPA was?  In real life those numbers fade into the background.

Real life is about persevering during tough times.  Real life is about setting goals and pursuing your dreams.  Living successfully is about overcoming obstacles and pushing through fears.  Life is about taking risks in the face of failure.  It is about choosing the crooked road to live out your dreams. What helps a person do all those things?  It is not test scores.  It is the encouraging words that someone (hopefully a teacher) shared with us along the way.  It is the belief in ourselves that someone planted within us…using encouraging words during our discouraging moments.  Those words are what will follow students forever and help determine their success in life.  At the risk of being tarred and feathered by politicians and the authors of standardized tests, the words you say to your students to encourage them have more power to impact their lives in a positive way than anything else. Period.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed on 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

The Power of Waiting

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WaitToday teachers are feeling the push to cover more material faster.  More and more schools that I enter are using scripted education.  Districts are purchasing programs which require the teacher to follow an exact script.   In that way they feel like every student will have the same opportunity to learn valuable concepts.  No student will be penalized on the test because the material wasn’t covered in class.

In our race to raise test scores we seem to be sprinting all the time. Teachers tell me “I have to cover the material from pages 75-79 today.  I can’t get behind.  Every student in the grade level needs to be on the same page at the same time.”  No detours allowed.

But real life seems to be all about the detours. Or maybe that’s just my life. This rush…this cookie-cutter formulated approach to education makes me sad.  Why?  My years in the classroom have revealed to me that students learn best when we engage both their minds and their emotions.  If you have to cover pages 75-79, do you even have time for a great story from “real life” that illustrates the concept in a way that they will remember for the rest of their lives?

Sometimes slowing down is the only way to build better understanding.  Activities take more time than merely covering pages in a book or program.  Learning games and discussions that engage students and build comprehension can be time-consuming.  But they are worthwhile.   Do you know what a teacher does when he needs to cover ground quickly?  He calls on only the students with their hands up.  They are tempted to overlook the student who isn’t making eye contact.  We have to keep moving.

When we call on a student who looks confused, one who doesn’t have her hand up, we have to wait and let her think about her answer.  When I’m confused and people rush me I become more confused, don’t you?  When we have the courtesy to wait we are really saying, “I believe in you.  I know you can get this concept.  Your understanding is important.  You are worth my time.”  When a student is confused they need that extra beat.

Great teaching is about allowing the extra beat.  It is about engaging our students with a true story or a lively discussion.  It is about having time to notice when they are hurting about something personal.  Their pain and the timing of their understanding doesn’t always happen between pages 75 and 79.  No matter how great a script writer you are, it is often the detours that include the teachable moments.  A great teacher knows the power of watching and yes,  waiting for those breakthrough moments.

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

I Love Tony Danza’s Mother

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I’ve never met Tony Danza’s mother, but I can tell you I admire her.  Why?  I once read an article in a magazine about Tony in which he described his mother’s philosophy.  I can’t remember or even find the exact wording of the  quote, but like all thoughts worth remembering, it has stuck with me for years without having to memorize the exact words. She said, in essence…

Every child deserves at least one adult in their lives who is passionately and even irrationally committed to their success.

Isn’t that a perfect thought?  Isn’t that what every child really needs and deserves?  The truth is my own mom believes I’m smarter and more capable than I am.  Her belief has gone a long way to build my confidence and create any courage that I have.  It encouraged me to personally push toward success.  She is the first person I want to tell about any of my triumphs.  She is also the person I go to when I feel deflated by the world.  When the world hurts me she is mad at the world and she hurts too.  She believes the world is wrong because she is committed to seeing the best in me.

I even like Mrs. Danza’s son.  He values education and teachers.  He is infectiously enthusiastic in every role he plays.  I credit her.

But I’ve taught long enough to face other realities.  Many, many of our country’s schools are filled with students who do NOT have even one adult who is passionately and or irrationally committed to their success.  Not a parent, nor a relative, coach or even an adult friend.  No one.

This leaves teachers with a tough and tall order to fill.  But we must step up to the challenge especially when no one else does.  Somehow every student needs to feel like we are committed to their success, yes even irrationally committed… even if all the sign posts point in the opposite direction.  That is when our commitment is most important, most needed.  Every one of our actions needs to demonstrate, “I’m on your side.  I see your talents even when you haven’t yet discovered them.  I know you have the ability and/or persistence to succeed.  Whatever the evidence I am committed (irrationally if need be) to your success.

Tony Danza’s mom would expect no less of us.  We shouldn’t either.

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

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

The Teacher Who Made ME Want to Teach

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The Teacher Who Made ME Want to Teach I wish I had a photo of her, but unfortunately I don’t.  Her name was Esther Waggoner and her third grade classroom pointed me in the direction of my life’s work: teaching.  I feel certain she taught me multiplication tables, cursive writing, reading and  many other academic subjects.  Plenty of exciting learning takes place in third grade.

I remember another thrill that school year.  Our old school building added a new wing while I was in third grade.  In the middle of the school year we got to pick up our belongings in our arms and carry them to our new classroom.  But none of these reasons are why I mention her here.  It wasn’t the academics or the surroundings that made that year special for me.  It was the enthusiasm of the woman in front of the classroom.

don't ever do this

Mrs. Waggoner just simply taught with Joy.  Messes didn’t seem to bother her.  Noise didn’t freak her out.  She loved children and she loved teaching.  She honestly was having so much fun in her classroom that she made me want to grow up and enter a profession in which I could go to work and have that much fun.

At home my parents belonged to the “Go Play” philosophy of child rearing. “Don’t make a mess or too much noise.  Do your chores and then go play.”  I was fine with that.  I never questioned it.  I loved to play outside from the time my chores were done to the time the lightning bugs came out at night. I honestly had no complaints.  I hadn’t experienced any other way.

Play with us Then Mrs. Waggoner appeared in my life.  She actually played with her students.  I studied her like she was some kind of personal science experiment.  What was this?  An adult who enjoyed playing with children? I had never met another adult like her.  During the winter months when we had a long season of indoor recesses she let us push all our chairs back against the wall and set up bowling pins.  We’d roll the ball knocking those wood pins down over and over again.  She never flinched.

DSC_0390_x2_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFileI remember one month when she even taught us how to square dance at recess time indoors.  She’d  clap her hands to the music and yell out those square dance calls with enthusiasm while we swung our partners and learned to do-si-do. She even danced with us when there was an odd number of students so no one would be left out.

I was hooked.  From third grade on I wanted to grow up and enter a profession that allowed an adult to experience that much joy.  Mrs. Waggoner is the reason I became a teacher.  Of course I taught academics.  Yes!  Students won’t respect a teacher who doesn’t challenge them academically.  But I first considered teaching because of the way that Mrs. Waggoner made me feel.  I wanted to connect with young people in the same way she connected with me.  It was Mrs. Waggoner’s joy that first sent me into teaching.  But it was the connections I made with young people that kept me there.  I’m proud to say that I enjoyed the profession as much as Mrs. Waggoner did.

When I finished college, can you guess where I began my teaching career?  In third grade, of course.

I went to a small town parade this past weekend.  I noticed that when military people and firefighters passed by, the crowd applauded.  I was proud of everyone.  It was exactly the right thing to do.  I was applauding right along with them.

But somehow I wish that teachers were the recipients of some applause and not just the targets of the media and politicians running for office.  It has become fashionable to criticize teachers just the way too many citizens dishonored our veterans when they returned from Viet Nam.

Great teachers deserve applause.  We’ve even seen too many teachers protect their students with their own lives in the past decade.  Today I applaud Mrs. Waggoner, the woman who taught with such enthusiasm that she pulled me toward this important profession.  I hope I have made her proud.

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

Dauna Easley is a speaker who has been invited to speak in 37 states.

Contact:  dauna@cinci.rr.com