Sunday, May 1, 2016

You are part of a cause larger than yourself!

Happy National Teacher Appreciation Week! I thought I'd pass along some encouragement I encountered while attending a great college commencement ceremony yesterday.

First was something one of the (many) speakers mentioned as an aside, regarding her professors: "They never belittled me for what I didn't know; instead they shared what they knew." What a nice encapsulation of what teaching can be. Even though I know not who or where you are, let me say Thank you, for sharing with your students what you know about your content and about living life positively.

2. The student speaker was from Traverse City, Michigan. She had children at a young age, but still transferred to the four-year university. For some reason she felt she couldn't move. So she commuted. Four hours each way. 30,000 miles in two years. As they say where my wife's from, Holy whuh! There are students out there who care about learning and growing. Not necessarily 30,000 miles' worth, but still. And some of them are in your class and have been blessed in their endeavors by . . .  you.

3. Last but not least, I saw a number of young men and women graduating not in robes and mortarboards, but in dress blues and whites. After being pronounced duly graduated, they took their oaths of office to protect and defend a country. Earlier, at the start of the day I had seen a squad of them in two parallel lines hoist and salute the colors of the nation they believe in and are dedicating their lives to. I realize that, like all human beings, they are doing what they do for various reasons, but it cannot be denied they will also be living for something larger than themselves. They did not merely go to college to get credentialed to get a certain job, in order to have a relatively enjoyable life at a certain economic level. They also will live for a larger purpose.

This can be true for most people, though it might take some mental recalibration. We can just exist or do a job to pay the bills and take the occasional trip (or -- Argh! -- pay the regularly-arriving tuition bills). Or . . . we can know and feel ourselves involved in an important cause, and wake up each day in order to serve in that effort. I would put to you, colleague, that you are involved in the mission to fight ignorance and incivility, and to promote reason and compassion. 

Trust me, I know that the tyranny of the urgent, the mud of the mundane, the drudgery of data-driven-ness all serve to distract us from what we are doing daily: dispelling darkness and engendering growth. But allow me to urge you to remember that we have the good fortune and joy (and yes, stress) of not merely having a day job, but being part of that great cause. We are part of a profession that has at its essence living for something larger than yourself. 

Take heart in that, and have a great Teacher Appreciation Week.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

You'll feel better when you read this hopeful article about teaching.

HERE's an essay recently published in Houghton, Michigan's newspaper, by my former student, Heather French of Lake Linden Public Schools. Heather has a cheering disposition and writes very positively of our profession. This will remind you why you went into education. Hopefully you can echo her closing line. Enjoy.


I am so late to the party! The official #loveteaching week is almost over. It goes through tomorrow, Mon., Feb. 22.

Sean McComb, 2014 National Teacher of the Year, with some friends, organized a week, complete with hashtag, for teachers to promote to each other and to the world the joys they find in their profession.

HERE you'll find his essay about it and some encouraging words.

HERE you'll find a collection of tweets using #loveteaching for identification. Why not add to them?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

How to Feel Less Stressed or Frustrated, With One Sentence

By taking a moment to slowly repeat a phrase or sentence (often called a mantra) -- even just a few times -- you can calm yourself and be mentally sharper. You can do this even during class when all the kids are at work or reading.

Like any profession ours can get stressful or frustrating. So when -- not if --
you're feeling stressed, take a moment and slow your breathing. Then, with each breath, say the following in your head:

"I am helping people grow."

If you like, you might try saying internally "I am" (a potent thought in itself) on the in-breath and "helping people grow" on the out-breath. Do this three to four times slowly, then return to the task at hand.

Simply doing any mini-meditation is helpful in and of itself. It can interrupt your body from a cycle of tension and incomplete breathing if you've fallen into one. Plus, the truth and positive message of this particular mantra can help you remember the value of your work, a factor that raises happiness long-term.  Some years I've even posted this as a sign near my desk to remind me that I'm not just putting in time or earning my daily bread.

Because, it's true. You are helping people grow. Say it one more time in your head, before we part:

"I am helping people grow."

Peace and well-being to you, colleague.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

These two Labor Day thoughts can help you enjoy the holiday.

Happy Labor Day!

Here in Michigan it's the Day Before School. For many of you, it's an already-welcome mini-break.

Let's remember a couple of things together.

1. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Both "teacher" and "principal" used to be significantly less well-compensated than they are now. There was a time in the '70s and '80s when our predecessors braved retribution to take action and increase the status of our profession. Much of what we enjoy, they fought for on the picket line and at the negotiating table.

2. A lot of people work for a company they wouldn't care a bit about, were it not their employer. We, on the other hand, have the great privilege of being engaged in a high calling: increasing knowledge and ability, combating ignorance and mean-ness, and helping to create contributing, collaborative citizens.

Enjoy the day and remember your mission is hard but important -- quite a gift considering the alternative, isn't it?

Monday, August 31, 2015

This one sentence from Dr. Wayne Dyer can help you interact more positively with every single person.

Dr. Wayne Dyer -- whose words on thought, spirituality, and positive intent towards others blessed so many -- passed away yesterday.

I want to repost a sentence he wrote that changed my life, and can change yours, if we will remember to do what he recommends.

This one sentence of his really helps my whole outlook and all interactions with people, from strangers, students, and parents,  to colleagues and family. It helps me keep love at the center of what I'm about as an instructor and encourager. I hope it helps you, too. Here it is . . .

"See the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A slightly scary (but very inspiring!) back-to-school message for you . . .

I know some of you in other states have been back to school for a while. Others like us here in Michigan won't be back at it until September.

Whatever the case: Happy New Year!

Here is the annual re-posting of one of my favorites. A few years ago Matt Reeves, then my assistant principal, read this to the staff on the day before school. So now I 'm passing it on as a back-to-school thought that is both cautionary and inspiring:

"I have come to a frightening conclusion.

I am the decisive element in the classroom.
It is my personal approach that creates the climate.
It is my daily mood that makes the weather.
As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child's life 

miserable or joyous.
I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.
I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.
In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis
will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized."

~ Haim Ginott 

from Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers, 1972