Bringing Back The Teacher T-Shirt

I love teaching apparel. You have to understand that when I first began teaching it was the early 90’s. Everybody was doing it. But I really liked the clothing, I even had socks. Alright, yes.  I had earrings and bracelets as well.

Fast forward to 2001 and I found myself slowly not wearing them as much. Then came the day I wore the sweater. It was a killer sweater with apples, numbers, and math symbols. I rocked that sweater. Or so I thought until one of my fellow teachers openly mocked my apparel on several occasions. Then I started noticing no one else in my new school really wore that kind of thing on a regular basis. I gave in.  Packed my sweaters and shirts away. But no more. I’m bringing back my teacher shirts.

Now I hadn’t gone completely cold turkey. We had our staff shirts we wore each year. But that was different. I didn’t get to choose what was on the shirt. The closest I came to choosing was the PTA spirit wear. Well, that’s all been changing. I’m bringing back my teaching personality.

Why the shirts? They let me express either a view or my pride in being a teacher. For too long teachers have come under attack or have become political sound bites. No more. I’m proud to be a teacher and I’m going to show it.

Below are my current favorites. I have several more on my shopping list. What teacher shirts are in your closet?

I wore this on vacation a few years back. While at a McDonald’s several senior citizens raised their hands as I was walking by and thanked me for being a teacher.

My first EdCamp ever and then my first EdCamp in the great state of Kansas.

Love EdCamps! This year I’m attending virtual EdCamp.

This year I became a Front Row Ambassador. It’s a great Math and ELA program. Check them out at http://www.frontrowed.com.

Best book I’ve read all year. Very inspiring. Check out their website and join the conversation at http://www.kidsdeserveit.com.

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Revitalizing Staff Morale Using the SNAIL Method-Part Five

This post is the final post in a five-part series.

In my first four posts I shared the five components of the SNAIL Method of revitalizing staff morale.  For this post I will offer my thoughts on the final component.

Stand up and take pride in our profession

Never pass up the opportunity to show appreciation

Acknowledge when things aren’t working and develop a new plan

Ignite a spirit of collaboration not competition

Let go of old hurts or jealousies

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars.  You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”-C.S. Lewis

Let go of old hurts and jealousies

To me, this is by far the most difficult thing to do.  How are you supposed to work with people who have either let you down, or who have been downright mean and toxic?  I don’t really have the answer to that one, just some thoughts.

I have encountered this too many times in my career.  Either someone has betrayed a confidence, spread lies or rumors about you or a situation, stabbed you in the back, or just been plain old mean.  You really have two choices; let it go, or let it eat you up.  Odds are the other person is not losing any sleep over it, so why are you?

In order to keep the focus on students, and continued growth of the building, we have to let it go. We have to decide to be the bigger person, the professional. Whether you like, or trust the person, you can still learn from them.

Above all, we have to remember it’s the students that matter the most. Not just ours, but those of that colleague that hurt you. Should their students suffer because you no longer want to share ideas, projects, materials, or supplies based on what that person has done? We can’t let students be affected by squabbles between adults.

The only thing I’m finding to help with letting go is to better learn to confront the issue when it happens, or soon thereafter.  It’s that sense of not being heard or having closure that makes it hard to let it go of hurts. This is still hard for me because I don’t seek out confrontation.  However, if I want to promote a positive culture, I need to advocate for myself, yet be kind and professional when doing so.

Staying Relevant As a Veteran Teacher 

I never really know how to take it when someone  says, “I’m surprised you still try new things.” Or,”You’ve been teaching forever, what do you still need to prove?” Better yet, to sit in on an interview and hear only new teachers have new ideas.  Once I asked what was meant by these questions, and I was a little shocked and annoyed by the answer. Basically, since I’d been teaching for so long it was assumed that I would still be teaching the same way I always had with no need to stay current or to try new strategies. New strategies or research could only come from newer, younger teachers. Umm, no.  It’s not that I have anything against younger or new teachers.  Hey, I was once one of them myself.  Yet, what many people find hard to grasp is that, as a veteran teacher, I’m constantly learning and trying new strategies.  It’s not just the need to stay current that drives me, but the need to ensure that I’m providing the very best education I can to my students.

So, how do we veteran teachers stay relevant?

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  1. Mentor a student teacher or a new teacher.  Student and new teachers have fresh eyes and a new passion. You will learn from each other. Often the desire to be a good model and mentor improves your craft as well.
  2. Don’t wait to be trained on technology. Seek it out. Try it. Don’t worry if you don’t know all about it. Just do it, and then share with others.
  3. Read professional books and blogs, and then share what you’ve learned. The running joke on my former fourth grade team was if I’d come to school on a Monday morning and utter the words, “So, I read this book and…” I’m constantly reading to hone my craft.
  4. Ask to provide professional development in your building. We have a lot to share. Not only from our own experience, but because we are life long learners and enjoy sharing what we’re learning.
  5. Don’t be afraid to switch grade levels.  Sometimes we can get way too comfortable in a grade level, and therefore, don’t really see the need to change or keep current.  How can you be relevant if you aren’t growing? Not to say that if you’ve been teaching the same grade level for years there is something wrong.  No, just don’t teach the same lesson plan in the same way for all those years.
  6. Get connected. It doesn’t matter the platform, just get talking with teachers outside your own building. This will expand the ideas you’re exposed to, and provide places to hear about new strategies and technologies. Then, you guessed it, share what you’re learning.
  7. Advocate for our profession. Face it. The older we get, the less we tend to worry about what others think, and we stop being afraid to speak up. It can be difficult for new teachers to speak up. They have a lot on their plate. Often we don’t feel comfortable rocking the boat early in our careers. Midway through our careers we get over that. Yes, many new teachers are already at that point, and I’m always in awe of that confidence.

Stay your authentic self, and maintain your enthusiasm for teaching.  These alone will keep you relevant. Remember, a healthy school is one comprised of a good balance of new and veteran teachers.

How do you stay relevant?

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t Make It Drink

This week my students were learning about adages, proverbs, and idioms. When we came upon the proverb, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, it made me think about teaching and the climate of a classroom, building or district.

Let’s start with the classroom.  In a moment of being overworked, tired, and feeling unappreciated I can find myself wondering why some of my students just don’t understand the material.  After all, I created a well thought out lesson plan, created engaging activities, met them at their level, and students were engaged.  Why isn’t what I’m doing working?  I led my students to the learning opportunity, but why won’t they drink from the well of learning?  I see two answers here really.  One is that at some point the student really does need to step up to the plate and want to do the work.  The other would be that while I thought I had led them, it wasn’t the right path.  So, as their teacher it is up to me to continue finding the path that will make them want to drink.  I need to keep leading them to the water until they realize that they are indeed thirsty and that they must want to drink in the learning and make the effort (I know it’s hard to believe a child would purposely refuse to do the work of learning, but if you’re honest, you’ve seen it happen.) to do the work in order to learn.

How does this proverb relate to your building or district?  You’ve heard staff lament that if we only were told exactly what to do it wouldn’t be so hard.  Hey, not throwing stones here, I’ve been guilty of it myself a time or two.  But in the end, we, or I, don’t like what they wanted us to do anyway and then still grumble.  Yet, they led us to the water and we refused to drink, or maybe we just didn’t like the taste.  So, maybe instead of being led to the water, why not lead yourself or better yet, gather a small herd to find what you need.  I stopped relying on others to show me the path and set off to find my own.  It doesn’t mean I have the answers or think I know it all.  It just means that if you value what you do, have passion for it, then you will continue to grow as a teacher.  More than likely you can’t change a building or district initiative, but you don’t have to wait on them to train you.  Are you worried you won’t be right?  Be perceived as that teacher who always goes overboard?  Look like a brown-noser?  Well, so what!  You’re in this job for the students and because you enjoy learning.  Don’t stop.  Get a professional book, read it, and try to implement in small steps.  Read blogs.  Look at Pinterest.  Talk with colleagues.  Get active on Twitter, not just tweeting, but participating in a live chat.  I have learned so much and connected with so many teachers in the short time I’ve been actively using Twitter.  Just this morning I made some amazing connections on #satchatwc and  #NT2t.

Remember, our administrators might be feeling the same way.  They believe they are leading, but we just won’t drink. Maybe they need to rethink how we are being led so that we want to drink.  Unless the path is clear, no matter how great the water may taste, we won’t be able to drink what we can’t find.  We should remember that shared leadership is the best of all.  If done right, it won’t mean that administration is shirking their responsibility, or that now we have even more work to do.  We don’t need to look to someone else for all the answers. We can take on that shared leadership role and work together to move forward.

So as you gear up for the week, think about how you lead in and out of the classroom.  What could you change?  What could you share?  How can you lead that horse to water and make it so they want to drink?

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Why name a blog One Room Schoolhouse?

What?  A one room schoolhouse?  Do those even exist anymore or is it just a fond memory from Little House on the Prairie?  Well, I think the answer is really both.  Teachers don’t really teach the grade level they are assigned.  Rather, we have a classroom of students who may be a grade level above, on grade level, or even below.  Isn’t this what Laura Ingalls experienced during her time as a teacher in a one room schoolhouse?  What did she do?  She found the strengths and areas of growth for each of her students, planned lessons in order to differentiate, and created integrated lessons (yes, it’s not a new concept).  This is what we are continuing to do, we just have a few more bells and whistles.  So, I decided to name my blog to reflect both my love of the Little House on the Prairie book series and what we teachers experience on a daily basis.  I’m hoping this blog will enable me to share what I learn about utilizing blended learning in my classroom.  Sometimes I will have successes and even tips to share, other times I will be sharing the messier moments on my journey.  In my classroom my students know learning is a messy business and that’s ok.