Teacher Tired!

Teaching is an intense career. There are hundreds of details of which to keep track. If you teach elementary school, you have 20 + students to get to know, age-appropriate levels of mastery in 5, 6, or more subjects to teach them, their parents to communicate with, the preparation of your lessons, worksheets and assessments to grade, state guidelines to know and follow, advanced students to challenge, confused students to remediate, meetings to sit in on, workshops to attend, and lesson plans to submit to the office. And children to worry about while not at school.

If you teach in middle or high school, you have hundreds of students during the day to get to know, hundreds of papers to grade, assessments to write, lessons to prepare, state guidelines to know and follow, advanced students to challenge, confused students to remediate, meetings to sit in on, workshops to attend, and lesson plans to submit to the office. And children to worry about while not at school.

This is teacher tired, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

I want to try to help, so here are a few thoughts (maybe they’re obvious):

  1. Make three “Things-To-Do lists organized by the date on which they must be completed, this could be an app on your phone:
  • Things that must be done today
  • Things that must be dopne this week
  • Things that are long term

2. Keep a calendar of all meetings and conferences in one place, again this could be on your computer or an app, and set up a reminder alarm for these.

3. Here is a free ebook with 101 ways to increase your productivity and maybe reduce your stress just a little (https://bit.ly/325iuZP).

Get More Done - 101 Productivity Principles To Help You Work Less & Achieve More

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Eight Ideas I Wish I had Learned Sooner!

  • Teaching is relationship-building and emotional. In order to teach/reach your students, you need to understand them, be aware of the baggage they bring to school, and care about them as they are.
  • You are preparing them for a world that does not exist today.
  • Although I understand that memorization is a mental skill that has to be practiced, forget names and dates and teach them how to ask questions.
  • A love of reading is the gateway to higher learning.
  • The ability to concentrate for lengthy periods of time is a learned skill that can be practiced and bettered. Start outperforming a task for one minute, then two, then five, then 30, etc.
  • Grit, the ability to persevere in the face of adversity, is what drives your success and achievements. Dr. Duckworth’s research on Grit suggests that when it comes to high achievement, grit may be as essential as intelligence.
  • Failure is learning. Thomas Edison said when asked about his 10,000 failed attempts at a light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The real failure is when you do not realize how close you are to success when you give up.
  • Students need a happy teacher. A teacher to excite them, motivate them, to make the information come alive and relevant to their world.

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Know Your Students!

Although students nowadays are tech-savvy and use social media constantly, their needs are no different than they have ever been. They want to be loved, they want friends, and they want to be included. Things around us change constantly but the emotional and social needs of children remain the same.

The football players at Alabama play their hearts out for Nick Saban because they know he loves them. Not just as football players but as people, as young men who need a mentor. And he is that mentor! They would run through walls for Coach Saban.

As Nick Saban explains, “In life, your road map is knowing what you want to accomplish then committing yourself to doing the things necessary to reach that destination. You cannot get there without hard work and perseverance.”

Children learn for their teachers who love them, who want the best for them. The teachers who get to know their students, who build a relationship with and care about each and every child, will be the most successful in getting their students to master the material. Getting to know your students does not mean just at school. It means knowing what kind of home they come from, what are their needs, and do they play soccer on Saturdays? I have told teachers, go to one Saturday soccer (fill in the sport) game and that student knows you love them. They will run through walls to please you.

With technology, staying in touch with your students and getting to know them is easier than ever before.There is not only e-mail, but you can chat and Zoom with them. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is how to better use technology. There are ready made platforms on the market in which to accomplish your goals with your students.

One example of how to stay in touch is Along.org. This website says,

“Help each student feel seen and understood.

Along is a free digital reflection tool that makes it easier for you to check-in one-on-one with each student.”

It is not another way to assign homework or assessements. It is a convenient way to stay in touch with your students, learn about their hopes and dreams, and do it on your time table. Direct the students’ reflections before, after, or during class. Post and schedule questions and replies anytime, anywhere.

“Along is packed with research-informed reflection questions designed to help students build life skills. Get tips that set you up for success from day one.”

Teaching and learning is a very complicated process. It is as emotional as it is mental. Let’s use technology to our advantage. Use your time wisely and efficiently. If you don’t like this platform, search another. There is always more we can do to help our students.

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Self-talk is what you say to yourself in your head during the day. Most do not pay attention to these thoughts that fly through our heads at any given moment. But we should really be aware of these thoughts and consciously control them. They can be awesome, or they can be devastating, but they definitely are powerful.

To teach this concept to students, I have been known to stage a demonstration in front of a student gathering. While I am talking to the students, I have another faculty member interrupt me in front of the students and say something not right. I turn to him and lambast him. I ask him how could he be so stupid. I tell him that he is just an idiot to … Well, you get the idea. I then asked them what they thought of my behavior and comments to my colleague? They were horrified that I would talk that way to a teacher they really liked and respect.

I then ask the students to close their eyes and think back to the last time they received a poor grade. What thoughts flew through their heads? Did they tell themselves:

  • You’re an idiot.
  • You’re so stupid.
  • How could you be so dumb?

This is self-talk and they should be horrified when they talk to themselves in these terms. It can be devastating. Instead, they should be conscious of their self-talk and make it positive. Tell themselves how they can do better. That they are capable of doing better. Make a mental list of what to do differently. Things such as:

  • I am smarter than this.
  • I will study more.
  • I will make an outline of what to study.
  • I will ask the teacher how I can do better.
  • I am a good person!!

It’s not easy to be aware of and control these thoughts flying through your head. But with effort, it becomes easy over time to make most of them positive. What you say to yourself affects what you think of yourself. And what you think of yourself affects your self-confidence and attitude.

Good luck!!

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Classroom of the Future – The Metaverse?

The recent pandemic has made all of us, especially teachers, embrace technology. Although the pandemic is a terrible thing, it has made us become quite clever and innovative. I spent a year teaching physics to students from around the world while I was in my bedroom talking to a laptop. I have instructed students about how to perform physics labs at home with a small box of equipment and materials from around the house. And it is so easy now to put an assessment online, give the students a window of time in which to take the test, and have the computer grade it. Wow!

Before the pandemic, like Calvin, I had been asking myself, where are robots? But I got a peak of modern education during the last year with Zoom classes, online labs, lab simulations, Youtube videos, and testing without paper and no grading. So I ask myself, what might the future classroom look like?

Calvin and Hobbes on Twitter: "25 years later and this comic is still just  as accurate today, as it was all those years ago… #ByeBye2020  #CalvinandHobbes https://t.co/YbpwCfIJSJ" / Twitter

I think that the future of education is going to be personalized education. Although a very important part of the educational system is socialization, I still think that learning will be personalized. And that’s a good thing, right? We have said for years that we wanted an individual educational plan for our child. Every child is different. So let’s do this individual thing!

The future of the classroom is virtual reality (VR). Every child will have an age-appropriate individualized plan in every subject. Just put on your VR headset and start your lesson. The metaverse will take you through a lesson, stop and answer your questions, build on the lesson to a greater understanding if capable, and assess your progress all in one session. It will review the subject in a completely different way if you need remediation, spiral through the subjects connecting them to each other, giving them more meaning, and move you at a challenging but comfortable pace. This will be possible with artificial intelligence (AI). All of this will be done with the appropriate visual displays, just like the SmartBoard in your classroom. Want to study the pyramids, let’s go there right now!

Maybe one day it will be possible to experience the metaverse with all of our senses. We can take cooking classes and smell the kitchen-like aroma. Hear the sound of the bee’s wings flapping as we study its aerodynamics. The metaverse does have a socialization side to it. Maybe this is not a problem with the students in their bedroom instead of their classroom. As Raine Maida, the lead vocalist and primary songwriter of the alternative rock band Our Lady Peace. said, “they have the opportunity to exchange ideas, creativity, emotional intelligence, and ultimately dream with billions of people instead of being victim to real-world barriers such as socioeconomics, borders, and language.”

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I have been teaching since 1972 and I have taught science to 3rd grade through college, so I have discovered, designed, and learned many different ways to present a new topic to the students. New and updated ideas are what it takes to keep the students interested. Kids today are used to being entertained. They can sit in front of a game controller for 6 hours and play a game. What do we offer that will hold their interest?

If I am to offer you only one piece of advice, I would say, to stay relevant and interesting in today’s world, tell the story. As a physics professor, I went to a conference in Boston one year. I took my wife with me so we could also have a little vacation while there. Boston is a great historical town. We had a wonderful time walking the Freedom Trail.

While there I talked my wife into joining me to here a session on string theory. She agreed to go for me, but I knew she didn’t really want to go. When it was over, she was excited. She didn’t think, as an art teacher, that anything about modern physics could keep her interested for 90 minutes, but it had. The speaker accomplished that feat by talking about a modern topic by telling the story. He began with Newton and proceeded all the way through today and the latest thoughts on string theory. He made it interesting by giving it context. He told the story.

In the first class of every new semester, I start the story for the students with Erostothenes, who in 235 BC calculated the radius of the earth. We stand today on the shoulders of thousands of years of brilliant people who got us to today with black holes, dark matter, string theory, quantum physics, quarks, and all the rest.

So teachers, with every new topic you teach, tell the story. Give it context in the students’ real world. Then teach it and show how it is relevant in their word. I know, easier said than done. But something to work on if you are to compete with the graphics of all the new video games.

25 Great Calvin and Hobbes Strips - Progressive Boink

I’ll give you an example. I always thought that teaching geography was a difficult subject to teach. It seemed dry and boring to me until I thought about teaching it through major historical events. Teach world geography, culture, language, and food through major world events. Kids love things that are demonstrative, so teach through volcanoes, tsunamis, nuclear explosions, wars, the invention of the wheel, the beginning of timekeeping, the invention of the printing press, the discovery of fire, etc. You get the idea.

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Saving Kids

Starting school in the 1950s, I was educated in traditional schools, rows of desks, folded hands, and lecturing teachers. I had trouble sitting still, but I did thrive in school. I enjoyed going to school. I did well and had friends. I think my whole life revolved around school. I enjoyed it so much that I spent the next 45 years after college teaching and working at schools. Even now in retirement, I am an adjunct professor at the local community college.

All of this is to say that I understand and support a traditional approach to education. It’s been very good to me and to many other students. However, my 5-year-old grandson has taught me about education in different terms. He attends a school where their play-based curriculum is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. Wow, play-based. Learn through play. What could be better, learning should be fun!

They not only have the students learn through guided play, but they also have the vast majority of their lessons outdoors. My grandson is an outdoor adventurer. He runs through the woods, sometimes jumps and flies through the air, and learns by exploring the trees, bugs, leaves, critters, and deer. I think that my grandson might be the reincarnation of Tarzan. What could be better?

My grandson taught me what for many might be true as stated by Haruki Murakami said, “The most important thing we learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school.” My grandson learns from the teachers, from the other students, from the animals, and from the outdoors. And he loves to play, I mean learn!

It seems to me, with the climate crisis looming over us all, there is no better way to say to the next generation, nature is beautiful, wondrous, and to be respected and cared for. This school has created outdoor adventures based on Author Richard Louv’s new bookLast Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Maybe that’s why we find ourselves where we are today? Today’s adults have Nature Deficit Disorder. They are so consumed with their cell phones and apps, computers, tablets, and laptops that they never looked around and thought to take care of the earth.

I loved school and found homework and worksheets to be fulfilling, even fun. I like that sense of accomplishment. But today’s children have been raised on video games and computers and cell phones. I call them digital natives. They need a different stimulation than us old folks but enough with the online games and super graphics. Do you know what else has eye-popping graphics? Nature! Do you know what moves with amazing grace? A deer and a chip munk! And the colors of wildflowers, wow! Carl Sagan asked, what’s happened to the students’ curiosity between kindergarten and 12th grade. Did we stifle it? Something to think about.

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Teaching is Easy, NOT!!

Since every adult has been in school, faced a teacher, been on one side of the desk, they then think they can teach (the other side of the desk) and it’s easy. I have had people tell me that it’s not that hard and you get three months of the year off too. So how hard can it be?

Well, try this. There are 20 to 30 or more students in the classroom. They each have a different modality of learning. Some learn best by hearing it, some by seeing it, and some by reading it. Each student has their own dominant intelligence based on Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Your job is to get to know each and every child on a personal level so that they know you, know that you care, and want to learn for you. People do things for other people. Football players work hard for their coaches. Nick Saban has players who believe in their coach so much that they will work hours for him. The product, success! Students will work on an assignment for hours for a teacher who believes in them. The product, Success!

Now add to getting to know personally the 20 to 30 students in your classroom, the fact that you are to teach them a state prescribed curriculum. You are to introduce the students to a new topic in an interesting way, practice these new skills, and then assess them. Every day is some combination of introducing something creatively, practicing, assessing, repeat. Those who grasped the concept on the first pass now need an enrichment activity while you circle around to those struggling. They need a new and different introduction.

In your tool kit are presentations based on some combination of;

Teacher Presentation,

Video Presentation,


Q & A,

Practice in Writing,

Practice Through Play,

Practice Through Problem Solving, and/or

Student Presentation.

In the summer months, teachers are designing new and creative lesson plans. Learning to use the latest in technology, and attending conferences to further their educational knowledge. I really do not understand why the general public does not understand how emotionally draining and time-consuming teaching is.

You send one of the most important people in your life to us for caring and teaching; the teaching of subject matter, of kindness, of respect, of getting along with one another, and a love of learning. And you don’t respect us, REALLY!

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Colin Powell’s 13 rules for how to lead

Powell offered 13 rules for leadership in his 2012 memoir, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership. There are lessons in here for all of us, from the teacher to the school administrator.

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. Leaving the office at night with a winning attitude affects more than you alone; it also conveys that attitude to your followers.
  2. Get mad, then get over it. Everyone gets mad. It’s a natural and healthy emotion. My experience is that staying mad isn’t useful.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it. Accept that your position was faulty, not your ego.
  4. It can be done. Have a positive and enthusiastic approach to every task. Don’t surround yourself with instant skeptics.
  5. Be careful what you choose: You may get it. You will have to live with your choices. Some bad choices can be corrected. Some you’ll be stuck with.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision. Superior leadership is often a matter of superb instinct. When faced with a tough decision, use the time available to gather information that will inform your instinct.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours. Make sure the choice is yours and you are not responding to the pressure and desire of others.
  8. Check small things. Leaders have to have a feel for small things — a feel for what is going on in the depths of an organization where small things reside.
  9. Share credit. People need recognition and a sense of worth as much as they need food and water.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind. Few people make sound or sustainable decisions in an atmosphere of chaos.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding. Followers need to know where their leaders are taking them and for what purpose. Good leaders set vision, mission, and goals.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers. Those who do risk wasting their time and energy.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. If you believe in the likelihood of success, your followers will too.

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Teaching Is Love!

I loved going to school. For personal reasons, school was the place where I felt most at home. But that’s not the case for everyone. In fact, I would venture to say that that’s not the case for most. Going to school for the first time is scary. Meeting new people is scary, will they like me? Will the teacher like me? Will I be called on by the teacher, will I know the answer? Will the kids laugh at me? Scary stuff!

When you are older, the questions are different but just as scary. Will that boy or girl like me? Will the kids laugh at my acne? Should I try those drugs? Will I make the sports team? Can I pass algebra? All scary stuff!

In order for the school to be a safe place for students, the teachers have to care about their students, love their students, respect their students, all of them. I have a good friend who teaches first grade and she is one of the best! She posted the following the other day. “Today I had a student return after being gone for 3 weeks. I greeted him with a hug and when I turned to tell the class who was back they clapped and cheered❤️💕❤️👏👏👏 The look on his face said it all. We as teachers have a front-row seat to the best moments ever👍❤️🍎🍎🍎” That’s a real TEACHER!

I have often said that there are two kinds of teachers, those who love children and those who love authority. Think about it. Where else can you close the door and have 20 to 30 individuals obey your every command? Parents. make sure your child is going to a school where your child’s teacher loves him/her, warts and all. A great school provides that kind of teacher every year, not just once in a while.

School isn’t easy. The students have to master decoding those symbols called reading. They study history and examine its ramifications. They study science and that dreaded algebra. It isn’t easy, from preschool to high school. And add to that computers, apps, and coding. So you want a teacher who loves them as they push them to be their best, pishes them to do more, to do better. Whether teaching or coaching (coaching is teaching), maybe Eddie Robinson said it best!

May be an image of 8 people and text that says 'Coach's Diary @ACoachsDiary "Coaching is a profession of love. You can't coach someone hard unless they know that you love them!" Eddie Robinson'

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