Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Go Slow to Go Fast- the importance of the first days of school

Go Slow to Go Fast. 

I capitalize this phrase because it has become a kind of mantra for me whenever I am embarking on a new and important endeavor.  If you skip building the foundation, your house will crumble.  Crumbling houses/classrooms are not fun.  Ask me, I have been there.

Go Slow to Go Fast.  There are tons of parables, fables and stories that illustrate this point.  Tortoise and the Hare and Three Little Pigs are two examples.  Yet, when receiving our new students to our schools and classrooms in the first days of school, we are tempted to forget the pigs eaten and the loser rabbit.  

Here is my Go Slow advice to you:

Take it slow and teach the routines, procedures, rules and values that your students need to be successful both in and out of your classroom.  Model them, practice them, read about them, challenge them and celebrate them.  I give you permission to take it slow, break it down and give your students the tools to be successful this year.  

Take it slow for your own well being.  Breathe deep, be present in the moment, cherish the small things and be grateful.  Relax and smile.  Enjoy the struggle and learn.  The most important thing in the classroom is your relationship with your students. They don't care about prefect bulletin boards or the cutest name tags (though those things are very cool too).  They care about being in community with you and their classmates.  They want to belong. 

Lastly, take it slow to HAVE FUN with your students.  Everything you do should lead them believe that school is the most awesome place in the world and that you are their biggest fan.  Be that awesome teacher that you want to be and they will LOVE you for it.  

Sing from your heart and let everyone hear it,
Dance like everyone is watching and smile,
Love like you want your students to love,
Live like this is the best day ever. 

Happy new school year! 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Secrets to Surviving and Thriving as a Teacher

Some questions I used to get asked a lot as a veteran teacher are, What is your secret?  How is it that you have stayed in the classroom so long?  

I am going to share some of my secrets to surviving and thriving as a classroom teacher.  This is my 17th year in education.  For the last 16, I have lived the sometimes grueling life of an elementary classroom teacher.  I'm not going to lie- I have found myself browsing the Craigslist jobs section more than a few times.  Barista?  That sounds nice.  I like coffee...  But in the end, I gear up and step back in front of room for another lesson-  here is why.

1) Love.  I love my students. Their smiles make my day.  When I am feeling low, I visit my former students in the cafe during lunch. "MR. ANDERSON!!!"  They all want to see me, talk to me, question me about my gerbil and my own kids.  They share their triumphs and their struggles.  I realize that they love me too and it is just enough to get me through the day.  But just because I love my students doesn't mean I don't...

2) Go home and recharge. I pack my bag when the students do and I go home when they get on the bus.  How?  I accomplish all the things that MUST be done, and leave the rest for another day.  There will always be one more thing to do.  If I have done my very best and covered the essentials, it is time to go.  I need to recharge because I...

3) Understand the journey.  Teaching is long journey.  All great journeys are long, at times arduous, full of unexpected challenges, rife with times of self doubt and soul soaring epiphanies.  I know that each day is one more small part of this journey and I need to take my smalls wins and rest up for the next day.  I cherish this journey, as difficult as it is, because I
have a...

4) Mission.  My mission is the driving force when I am totally overwhelmed.  My students deserve the chance to choose their own destinies.  The fact is, if you have brown skin or live in a poor neighborhood, you have very little chance to get a decent education and go to college.  My students' zipcode and ethnicity can not be allowed to limit their opportunities.  To accomplish my mission I need to...

5)  Get a little bit better everyday.  I don't expect myself to be perfect.  I know I will make mistakes.  But each day is an opportunity to get incrementally better.  Those little wins add up to big successes over the long run.  Those successes will help my students live their dreams.  Though I know I can't do it alone because it takes a...

6) Team.  I am part of an amazing team of educators giving 100% everyday.  They support me when I stumble and forgive my imperfections.  My team inspires me when I feel like giving up.   Honestly, without my team I wouldn't be able to keep it up.   I hope I do the same for them.

I love teaching but it is one of the hardest jobs to master, stay sane, and stay balanced.  If you are a good teacher, no one is harder on you than yourself.  You beat yourself up about the mistakes you make and your missed opportunities.

Here is the truth about teaching- you will never master it and never be the perfect teacher.  But you will have amazing victories and moments of teaching nirvana.  You will make the lives of your students better simply by loving your hardest and performing your best.  And you know what else?  Yours students will always remember you for that love and effort, and be grateful.  You will change the course of the the rest of their lives.

Mother Teresa “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

― Mother Teresa