It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Somedays, it’s the very small things that get us through. Diet Coke. Chocolate. Coffee. The laughter of our kids. Share these with a teacher you love… and let them know they matter! Happy Downloading!
Click the poster to download full size. Free for classroom, personal use, and to make another teacher’s day. Enjoy!
If you could give your students one last message, what would you say? What is it that you want to make sure they have learned in your classroom? I came across this quote by Henry David Thoreau, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Our classrooms? We are providing the foundations, little by little, brick by brick, to support our kids’ biggest dreams and greatest passions. It struck me because building a castle in the air isn’t easy. Things will fall apart, crumble, and collapse. But, if the foundation is strong? The dream will survive the struggle. The struggle will become part of what makes it so great. Inside each and every one of our kids is a dream. Sometimes those dreams are buried within and we have to help them find a way to bring them out.
Because if we do, the future will be exactly what it is meant to be. And their dream, built on the foundation we helped provide, will be an amazing part of it.
I once surveyed my class to see what they wanted in a classroom, from a school, and in a teacher. One comment struck me: “I like when teachers make things interesting.” All I could think of was, do we sometimes make things uninteresting? The world is… completely interesting. How is it that we take the content of the world, make it uninteresting, present it to kids, and then wonder why they are not motivated, learning, invested, involved. Interesting. If the world is interesting, and I believe it is, then shouldn’t our classrooms be some of the most interesting places?
I think we underestimate interesting. We think pictures in a book, reading about experiments, writing about things we’ve read about, doing math problems about people that don’t even actually exist should inspire our kids. But it doesn’t. What IS inspiring to our kids is the real world. Authentic experiences. Interacting with nature. Solving community issues. Being a part of something bigger. Being a part of something real. In their interests, lies their biggest passions. Their passions are the foundation for motivation, for inspiration, for dreams. That’s where the real “interesting” lies. It’s our job as educators to not only make sure our kids see it, but to make sure we’re not covering it up.
YouTube. The home of hilarious cat videos, funny videos of babies dancing, and so much more. It’s blocked in most schools. But, it’s filled with learning potential. No, I don’t believe kids should sit and watch videos all day to learn. Of course not. But, videos that inspire thinking? Encourage kids to wonder? Spark new ideas? Those are what YouTube is truly great for. Know what is really awesome? Three of the channels below were shared with me, by a student, who watches them often outside of school. Not because it was an assignment, or because it’s a funny video of a baby dancing. Because our kids want to learn. These seven channels offer clips that feed their curiosity. Feeding curiosity is what learning is all about.
VSauce: Because there are questions you didn’t even realize you wanted to know the answers to, but are completely interesting to uncover. What would happen if everyone on the earth jumped at once? What color is a mirror?
MinuteEarth: Science and stories about our awesome planet! How much would your hair grow in 3 million years?
EarthUnplugged: Earth Unplugged presents our amazing world as you’ve never seen it before. From BBC Earth Productions, it’s a fresh look at our planet featuring a kaleidoscope of the wonders and curiosities of nature. The slow motion videos are A-MAZING!
Veritasium: Veritasium is a science video blog featuring experiments, expert interviews, cool demos, and discussions with the public about everything science.
TED Talks: Inspire your students to think about things in new ways. Or, inspire yourself.
Smithsonian: Learn from experts in art, design, history, culture, science and technology.
What’s you (or your students) favorite YouTube channels? I’d love to build a list.
You could be a master of teaching strategies. So organized you can find a pen, every time. Never miss a day of school. Have a beefy lesson plan book that’s filled up and fully differentiated. You could have all of that, and more. And still be missing something. Still miss knowing your kids. Beyond their names and score reports. After reading about a bill in Missouri that would tie teacher performance evaluation to test scores, I immediately thought about all of the people, outside of schools, who think they understand. But don’t.
Why is teaching more than a score? I know a teacher who left school during her planning time to get a student a special stuffed dog and sympathy card when his pet passed away. I know a teacher who paid $20 in her kids lunch fund so he could have a hot lunch. I know another teacher who visited a student in the hospital after she had surgery. I know a teacher who drove an hour to find enough tooth picks for her class to build bridges and test engineering plans. I could keep going. I know hundreds of stories about great teachers. People I’ve been lucky enough to call colleagues and friends. Stories that would make you smile and inspire you.
And stories that would make you forget about score reports.
I can tell you my students’ pets’ names, their siblings, their stories about home and family, their likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, and dreams. I know these things because I am their teacher. My number one goal is for my students to become everything they dream of, and if they have no dreams, my goal is to help them find one. Along the way, they learn. Facts and knowledge are woven together through character, connections, real life, and real learning. Problem solving, creativity, and thinking are the forefront. Life is real. Not a score.
But scores are what some will try to say makes a “Great Teacher.” Scores that people across the state, country, and in offices far away read and judge. Taking every personal connection from the profession. A profession that’s built on personal connections. Most of us can remember that “Great Teacher” we had as a child. A teacher we had a connection with us so strong that it has lasting effects ten, twenty, even forty years later. A teacher that changed our lives. A teacher who recognized his or her job was about far more than numbers.
I think those times when you think you have nothing to blog about, are the times that you most need to blog. Many people say, “I’d like to start a blog, but I don’t know what to write.” Well, just write. Write something. Anything. Think. Look back. Look forward. Take a moment. One tiny moment from your day and write about it.
Today? We opened the windows. It was great out. So, we went outside for a walk. The sun was shining. Kids were laughing. The flowers were blooming. We talked about the trees. We talked about our day. We listened to each other and played tag for a bit. It was ordinary. This dandelion? I picked it, held it up to the sun, took a pic with my phone while we walked. It’s nothing special. But, it is.
Our days are filled with hundreds of ordinary things that really are extraordinary when we take a closer look. Blogging makes you notice those things. It allows you to share them with others. Reflect. Take a second glance. Get a new perspective. Or give one. It’s not something you have to have time to do. It’s something that if you just make a little time to do, it will make the rest of your time even more meaningful.
I’ve taught lots of stuff over the years. But, when I look back, I can’t really remember any of it. It’s really a series of lessons tied together with the pages of a planbook, and scribbled in my favorite colorful Flair pens. What do I remember when I look back? All the things I’ve learned. I remember the kids who taught me that not every child has the picket fence life to go home to. I remember the child with a brain tumor who could barely see, yet continues to embrace life to the fullest, even today. I remember the moment I had my first class and realized that this captive audience was mine and they were excited to learn. I remember the day my class took their shoes off and we laid in the grass reading, but mostly just laughed. I remember the kid who seemed to have nobody in his life, who came to thank me for helping him talk with a scientist, and me realizing that he did in fact have someone…and it was me. I remember the kid who wrote a blog post about being inspired to change the world and sent it to me. The stuff I look back on? It lets me see everything so much clearer. When we look back, we get a view that is crystal clear. We’ll never really remember the tiny details in the things we teach, but we’ll always remember what we’ve learned from our kids.
There is one big reason to work in a school. Incredible things. You are surrounded with kids. Kids who haven’t lost their creative filters. Who still dream big, explore on a tangent, and push your thinking in a way that makes most adults uncomfortable. It’s been said “The creative adult is the child who survived.” (Ursula Le Guin) We need to make our classrooms something more than a place for kids’ creativity to survive. We need to foster it, encourage it, and embrace it. Because then? We’ll find the incredible things that inspire us.