The Value of a Teacher

Welcome back after a break from blogging. As I was brainstorming, I knew I would be REMISS if I didn’t start with the value of a teacher. What does this all mean? The definition of value as defined by Merriam Webster is “the relative worth, utility, or importance” or “something intrinsically valuable or desirable.”

I believe every life has value but in my personal opinion, there is something wonderful about teachers. We inspire every, single profession. We nurture, we coach, we counsel, we parent, we prepare, we organize, we work, work, work–oh and we teach.

We have precious families and lives as well. They value us just as much. On the flip side, we live and work in a society that simply does not understand or possibly even desire to understand the work of an educator or the complexities that come with it. We are people, and we have immense value not just to our school systems, but first to our own families, friends, and communities. Here are 3 takeaways to encourage you for Fall 2020!

Self-Care: Mental, Physical, and Spiritual

Self-care is a term that gets thrown around quite a bit these days. Self-care is not just a spa bath and pizza night. To me, self-care is taking care of yourself first so you can in turn have the strength to help others. In an airplane, they never tell you to put the oxygen mask on someone else in case of an emergency. You put the oxygen on you first so you are stable enough to help everyone else.

Here are some ideas to help you stay on track:

Plan something to do every day** or weekend you can look forward to. Do not look at August as “Somebody help us, here we go.” No, see it a transition into a new season that we are learning to navigate together. I am not naive to what is going on AT ALL. This is serious, plans are being deliberated and evolving every day however, we cannot let stress and anxiety overwhelm us to the point of no return. Speak up respectfully as you feel you need to. This is also not a time for teachers to be silent. You are valued. Here’s the secret: monitor, plan ahead, but take it a day at a time.

Plan a movie night every Friday with your favorite snacks or takeout, calling a loved one at a certain time during the day, week or weekends, keep a journal of how you are doing during the school year and how you feel, create a blog ‘)–even if it is private and only for you, go for a nature hike on Saturday mornings (one of my favorites), or listen to ( blast) your favorite song(s) in the car or at home, radio show, audio books, and more everyday after school or on the way to school. Lastly, enlist your family and dear friends to pray for you during the school year and of course, do the same for them in return.:)

–Take a mental day if needed!

–Exercise 3-4 times a week even if it just 20 minutes.

–Prepare easy, healthy meals and snacks on the weekend to eat throughout the week. Pinterest has great meal ideas. A healthy diet not only helps you physically in so many beautiful ways, but it also helps you mentally and emotionally as well. Drink plenty of water too!

–Prepare a care pack to keep in your classroom or office. This is a NECESSITY! I wrote a previous blog on it here: https://theeducatorslight.com/2018/08/08/create-a-beautiful-new-care-packet-for-you/.

–I LOVE music! Play music in your classroom or wherever your space is. I jam out in the car, at home, wherever. I play music for the kids (always keep it appropriate) while they are working and it has such a settling/fun effect on them and me. Thank me later.

–If you need extra support or counseling during this time, there is NO shame in that! It takes strength to seek help and support. You teach. You have a life. You are not a robot. Teaching is what you do professionally but not it is not the whole of who you are. Many school districts or educational entities offer complimentary or discounted counseling services apart from the district and it is confidential. Check your benefits and get the support you need.

–If you have genuine concerns or ideas, respectfully share them. This is a season of collaborating and working together.

–Take a break from negativity and negative people. It’s draining from every side right now. Also, in addition to a pandemic, there is so much culturally going on right now. Stay focused on the goal and vision. Do not get lost in the turbulent waves. As educators, we need to be up to date on what is going on but filter what you are taking in to help preserve your sanity.

There are other things you can do and research to set up a Self-Care plan that works for you! Create a plan and stick with it. You are worth it.

Stay Organized

This seems like a tall order to ask when it seems like instruction and even locations are subject to change at any given notice. Develop a system to stay organized. Right now, I have a big Jansport backpack that I keep everything in. It has multiple compartments. One compartment for my laptop, one for my instructional aides, planning and grades, one for personal supplies like highlighters, sticky notes, pens etc., one for my healthy snacks/lunch, and one for my car keys, wallet, etc. I’m definitely a purse girl when I want to be fancy but when I am taking care of business, I am on the move–with lipgloss. Plus, the school I taught at last year was 3 stories–and I taught on the 3rd floor! Most of the staff had backpacks. I call mine my “Traveling Office.” You can also use a rolling cart that you can simply roll to the car and organize the inside of. Office Depot has sturdy ones starting at around $25.00. I am not keeping multitudes of things in my room this school year but do YOU. The longer I teach, the less stuff I feel I need in my classroom (but I still love to decorate for the kids!). I found that over half of the things I had stored in the room, the kids nor I didn’t even need. I am in secondary, but if you are elementary and need social-distanced stations or corners and want to jazz it up–do it! Add your flavor to it.

I will decorate my room for the kids (I want them to have a cozy, pretty, safe place), keep it instructionally relevant and accessible as well as neat ( we’ll be virtual for at least a month) and out of respect and diligence, adhere to the precautionary guidelines when they come. It’s different this year. Stay organized. Keep the peace and most importantly, keep your peace.

Keep it simple

Here is another tall order. Remember–this is not a competition. We are all navigating this school year together day by day. I will never say stop dreaming but I am saying be realistic. Keep it simple, creative, and focused because we all understand. I am sitting here now trying to brainstorm how I want to create my Bitmoji classroom or I may not even end up doing that! I may find another great idea in my research and planning.

Here’s the thing–I would not go into the school year with 49 ideas of starting the school year. Please don’t do that to yourself. Even the virtual trainings I have participated in have been simple. This is not the time to overwhelm yourself and most importantly, the kids. Kids need to feel they can be successful. Many of them are very overwhelmed right now (you may be too). Some don’t want to come back, some do, and some in between and that is understandable. As I always tell my students, ” keep it cool, keep it real.” Gauge where they are, make it work for you and your students effectively no matter your platform.

The value of a teacher is immeasurable and your influence goes on past what you know. You can still have that type of influence online or in person with precautionary measures. I am right there with you. Contact me at theeducatorslight@gmail.com and I will get back with you within 24 hours. I would love to talk to you and encourage you into and during this season. Talk to you soon. Hope is right in front of us no matter what it looks like.

Let your light shine,

Kia

Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

Why Everybody is Not Called to Teach Everybody

What a title. It is the truth too. When going into teaching or whatever sphere you are in, every audience is not for you. Everybody cannot reach 3rd grade the way an awesome 3rd grade teacher can. Kindergarten teachers are simply called to do what they do.

When I tell people I teach middle school, their face turns to shock, fear, and disgust (I am literally laughing while typing this). However, I absolutely love it (on most days) but I can easily see why others are intimidated. Right now, teachers are reassessing their year and deciding what to do for next year. Beginning teachers are deciding what grade will be their banner grade.  Here are a few power points as to why everybody is not called to teach everybody and how understanding this can keep you in the classroom past two weeks.

First, The Exceptions and My Senior English Teacher:

Now, there are exceptions to this. Every year is not perfection, and I make no apologies for saying this—students are not going to like every teacher. I call it learning the art of “get over it.” Some of my own best teachers were not the ones I dreamed of. But they were what was best for me at that time. One of the teachers I despised the most became one of my inspirations for going into teaching.

 My twelfth grade English teacher, Mrs. Campbell, had us write a paper at the beginning of the year. I started my senior year at 16. I almost died my junior year and had been in the hospital for a month. I was a miracle and not just survived but thrived. There was no stopping me. But at the tender age of 16, needless to say, I was still a little wet behind the ears. I knew I had aced that essay so when she passed it back, I lifted my head with a subtle, haughty expectation. She placed the essay on my desk. I was in shock—it had marks all over it. I looked at her, she looked at me, I looked at the paper, then looked back at her. She looked at the paper, then looked at me and said quietly but sternly “Girl, I’m not taking that mess.” Then had the audacity to swing her blonde bob around and swiftly walk off. I rolled my eyes so hard I almost had to reach in my purse and take Advil. I remember literally thinking “uh, lady, you don’t know me like that!” I even contemplated a schedule change. I never went too far because my mama and daddy did not play. I had wonderful parents as a teen who were hilarious, but “acting a fool at school” was a complete nonnegotiable behavior in our house. Being the oldest of three kids, I knew I needed to set some type of positive example for my brother and sister besides going to the assistant principal’s office over a marked-up essay.

Thinking back to that September day, I realized that she probably saw something in me. I think she knew what she was doing. She pushed and challenged me. By midyear, I was acing difficult exams and assignments and went on to make literally 102s on literature unit tests. She literally ended up being one of the coolest, strongest teachers I ever had (she was one of the best at the high school and was hilarious) and was one of my inspirations for eventually majoring in English in college and becoming a teacher. To this day, I even model some of my teaching personality after her. I challenge my students and speak the truth. I set high expectations but you better believe I will help you get there—but I will not wallow and stay down at the bottom with you. My high expectations will remain because you CAN do it.

Some students, parents, and other people want you to pity them and cannot except truth. I am very warm and empathetic, but like my dad once told us about a situation he was helping someone else outside of our family in, “I love you, but I am not tripping with you.” I also do not play because your future is at stake.

Thank you Mrs. Campbell for who you were and pushing that quiet girl with the strong personality.’)

The Grade You Teach Needs To Compliment Your Personality:

For example, there was a church that had an enormous, fun, and successful children’s ministry. They had  openings and applications for new Children’s Ministry coordinators and teachers. One gentleman eagerly fulfilled the call. Without hesitation, they placed this man with kindergarten. He gleefully complied and prepared his first lesson. On Sunday morning, the kindergartners sat eagerly awaiting his lesson. When he spoke about the scripture in Proverbs that spoke “life and death are in the power of the tongue,” he pulled out an entire cow’s tongue from the local food market to further illustrate. The kids screamed. He was horrified at their response. Kindergarten was not his jam.

Finally, with more wisdom the second time around, they placed this man with seventh grade. This man hesitantly gave the same lesson. THIS time, when he shared his “special” illustration, the seventh graders roared in complete excitement. Needless to say, seventh grade was officially his jam.

Additionally, when I was in college, to prepare for working with kids, I interviewed at a summer daycare in my hometown. The daycare seemed really nice and respected.  I SO wanted to work with the 5th and 6th graders but they were already staffed for them. The owner assigned me to the 2-year old classroom. “Woo chile”. Not only 2-year olds, but SIXTEEN at that. They were absolutely adorable. Now imagine putting all of them to sleep at naptime. It was like herding kittens–not to mention we had a serial biter in the midst. People would quit left and right and I wanted to leave right with them. The assistant that was with me was not very reliable to be honest and was out quite a bit. However, not being one to walk out, I stayed until my summer assignment was up.

Yes, I tried to see the positive in every situation. During my break, sometimes I got to help in the nursery and hold babies who were so precious. One of my two’s did not have an ideal home situation so she would cling to me before naptime and sleep. I also had to change every diaper before their parents came. You never give them back to their families dirty. So, I would make them laugh and talk to them while cleaning them up and changing those very, messy diapers. I learned to have joy in the process.

Teaching sixteen two- year- olds or even primary was not my calling, but it prepared me. When I graduated college, I was rewarded with the grade I truly wanted at that time—5th grade for my very first public school assignment. I ended up working at that school and for that principal for 7 years.

I am a firm believer you need to teach according to your personality. Sometimes for your first year, you do not get the grade you want and that is okay. Make the best of it and keep the right attitude. Usually, as soon as they see you working hard and loving those kids, and as soon as a position for the grade opens up, they put you in it.

If you get a sinking feeling in your gut about a grade, and you have the liberty to pass the assignment, PLEASE do. Every strong teacher doesn’t need to be in elementary and every quiet teacher doesn’t need to be with first grade

You Need a Passion:

School-wise, my passion is for 4th-8th grade. That was the toughest time of my childhood at school. Many students are getting bullied in addition to this time being such a confusing time. Because I understand their experience, I love these grades. They are hilarious, can hold a conversation, can rationalize to some degree, and most really do enjoy learning in addition to being the most impressionable. They have brought me so much joy and I hope I have done the same for them.

Now, what grade do you want to teach? Yes, it really is that serious. Young lives are at stake. Everybody is not called to teach everybody, every demographic, every grade etc. Teaching is a calling and not a gig to get you over until that lucrative, corporate position opens or until you hurry up and jump into administration. It’s a calling for a season or for a career span. You may teach young students, adults in a night class, or everywhere in between. Every life has value. How you treat that concept is truly reflective of your character. Choose wisely my friend.

Kia 😉

Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

The Leaning Tower of…Progress: Three Steps to Moving Forward Through Challenge

The Leaning Tower of…Progress.

You have seen it all over the news and internet—even in the New York Times and other national news. It is Dallas, Texas’ own Leaning Tower. An old building where they simply were carrying out a typical demolition in a big city but the building still stands. People have taken the liberty of posting humorous photos in front it. People have joked about it. I joked about it. You see, there was a plan. A plan to demolish it, but it would not go down without a fight. I even laughed and said “I see my kindergarten niece and her classmates formulated the process to bring the building down.” But…there was a plan. It just did not go as anyone thought. They are still trying to bring that bad boy down—one chunk at time. Inevitably, somehow, it will come down (the designers/engineers of the building are somewhere laughing hysterically–because they had a solid, effective design).

You may or may not agree with the demolition company’s approach, however, whether in education or in life, plans are established, but it does not mean the outcome will be pristine and without obstacles. Like the Leaning Tower, what can we do to move forward with and in progress? “Lean in” and let’s talk.

  1. Recognize the issue for what it is—sometimes a complex web of challenges.

It is easy to blame a challenge on poor planning, the execution, the executor, or lack thereof. Yes, we are always to examine ourselves first and foremost. Let’s also stay humble—it could be us (laugh). However, when the problem is long, complex, and deep, there are a myriad of factors. I am in no way a demolition expert nor have I done extensive research on the topic, but jokes aside, I presume the company who was hired to complete the demolition examined the structure, planned, set up everything, and did what they were supposed to do. That building just did not come down. Sources say the elevator shaft is one factor of hinderance. There are other variables at play as well.

Regardless, what is the company doing? Taking the structure down as much as they can while also keeping in mind public safety and compliance. Panicking will not help. Blaming will not help. Being negative and pointing out every little “perceived” flaw will not help. It does not mean the company has not had legitimate demolition victories in the past. It certainly doesn’t mean they won’t have significant victories throughout the company’s future. They have simply stumbled into a unique challenge for this period in time. Yes, there is urgency but stay calm, and just get the job done ethically for the benefit of all.

2. Get it—a piece at a time.

Rome was not built in a day. Neither is a successful outcome. Have you heard the phrase “you see my glory but have you seen the pain and long road that got me here?” Success is rarely a perfect line or an astonishing upward trend. Success is a process of learning, growing, and overcoming a piece at a time. As an educator, your students are not going to pass every assessment overnight. I have literally seen great teachers/colleagues struggle with students all school year and on the last assessment of the year, ROCK it. It took piece by piece, planning by planning, implementing programs, building intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, constant restructures, sincere support, home support (above all) and more to get these students where they were supposed to be. A piece.at.a.time. while observing many factors. Numbers don’t lie but success is rarely only quantitative—it’s qualitative as well. I like to call it the Power Blend.

For example, on the show My 600 lb Life, a mother was fighting for her life. Not only was this amazing soul trapped in her bedroom with her beautiful daughters serving her night and day, it bothered her. She sought help. As my sister in law and I watched the show, we were awestruck at the negligence the medical staff and support team exhibited. The doctors were so focused on the scale number, they did not see her as a whole person nor address the root of her weight issues—years prior, her 5 year old child was tragically killed while she was away in Haiti seeing family. This woman was grieving out of her mind and the way she soothed herself was through eating. Even the counselor they appointed to her could not see what was really going on. Needless to say, they neglectfully approved her, and she had the weight loss surgery. Due to her not being able to control her overeating due to the underlying emotional issues including grieving, and while disobeying commands to not overeat with her new, reduced stomach pouch, she literally ate herself to death. She left behind several courageous daughters. What should have been a victorious ending to the show turned out to be footage of her funeral. The Power Blend was not executed for this precious woman to any extent. As the ending credits for the show rolled, my sister in law and I looked at each other speechless.

3. Look forward and onward.

If the demolition company looked at every criticism of their approach (which I don’t necessarily agree with but hey, I do admire their tenacity, and what do I know about demolition?), they would never get the job done. They just keep hitting at it day by day keeping their sights and eyes on the end goal, working to knock that tower DOWN. You may have a goal for your students to knock a test out of the water, to become a stronger class by April or May or a personal goal for you (teaching is what we do, it is not the whole of our identity). Keep your eyes focused on your students and/or your goal. Note: not all criticism is bad. People who are trustworthy and truly care are simply trying to help.

Looking at the complexity of challenges, attacking the challenge a piece at a time, and looking forward and working towards the end result are lessons we can all learn from the Leaning Tower of Progress—oops, I mean Dallas. Some say the endurance and determination of this entire ordeal really reveals the spirit of Dallas. I truly hope so. And I hope it reveals those characteristics in your spirit too.

Kia 😉

Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

Captain Underdog: 2 Essential Tips for Celebrating the Underdog Student!

Every teacher has the student that is what we call a diamond-in-the-rough. They have beautiful potential but may not get as much attention elsewhere as other students. Factors can include behavior (too nice, too loud, too quiet ,too goofy, personal issues, or even mean), a different look, a different personality, struggling academic progress and/or achievements and the list goes on. As the years have passed, I have had the honor of working with numerous underdogs in education. Every child has immense value.

Underdogs grow up to be amazing people if given the proper support early on in life. From movies to real-life, we all love an astonishing underdog story that gives us a sense of inherent hope and greatness with a foundation of sincere humility.

Here are 2 Essential Tips so celebrate the Captain Underdog in your classroom–whether it is one or 25!

1. PRAISE-I mean sincere praise. Kids can tell fake from real and whether your praise is sincere. Praise can be more than “I’m proud of you! “Praise can use a sticky note to stick on the desk of the students who need encouragement, a sweet note in their journal, a positive phone call home, or giving them a special task or class role. Make sure your praise is specific so they can grow. Praise is also motivating. If you focus on what they can do right, then what they need work on will begin to pale in comparison to not only their fortified strengths but it also propels them to work on their weaknesses.

Praise is always a step in the right direction.

2. Allowing them a second chance.

Around 2012, I had a student named Joshua (not real name). Joshua came to us from another school which was a sought after fine arts academy in district I was in at that time. He was highly talented in theater. Because he struggled in English and other classes, they put him out. However, he came to US, and was a treasure. He began encouraging other students. He went from discouraged and withdrawn to outgoing. He was the lead in the school plays and performed in several other school performances. Joshua bloomed–because he was given an opportunity to be who he was and boy was his countenance amazing! He was simply phenomenal. He went from “overlooked to overbooked” as they say. With sincere support, Joshua was simply given another chance and to this child, it meant the world.

I do not have to recount history to show you the impact “underdogs” have had on our society and lives. These students are the student who may not bust 100s on every assignment, but they can be the strong quiet student, unorganized loud students, the one with issues, the shy student who always smiles and does their work but tends to be overlooked for leadership roles.

Praise and give your student underdog a second chance, you may just vote for them years from now in your local election, or see them on television, or they may be your future neighbor or city superhero. Regardless, every child has value.

Kia’)

Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

The One Thing You Need to Change Your Classroom…

Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light
My Classroom in 2014

Are you tired of classroom chaos? You teach but no one listens? The students run into the room like maniacs. They scream in the hallway. You ask your students 20 times to do one task? Did you think teaching would be easier than this? Do you have a great curriculum but feel like it is going nowhere? Are you about ready to walk out of the profession? What is the one thing you need to change your classroom? BRACE YOURSELF. Are you ready? Drum roll…(How do you like my commercial introduction so far?)

CLEAR EXPECTATIONS.

“Wait. What?”

I SAID clear expectations. Expectations from entering the room to dismissal and in between. Expectations about grades to behavior. This is not saying your students will always be perfect–we teach kids, not robots. What this is saying lends to why it feels like your class is in constant chaos.

Yes, you will have to reiterate clear expectations over and over again. However, it sure beats not having any clear expectations at all. Yikes.

Here a few expectations you should have:

1.Behavior/Citizenship. This is number one. A list of rules is not bad but I always put the expectations. Bland rules sound more like “don’t do this, don’t do that, no, no, no.” They tend to go in one ear and out the other. Expectations lean more towards, ” you are mature, you can handle this, and this is what is expected or there will be consequences. Follow the expectations and there will be great incentives and rewards. I always love to stress the importance of character “who you are when you think noone is watching and how they should not only treat me and other adults, but also each other.

2. Grades. You do not need a 6 page syllabus describing a grade policy. If it’s for students, it needs to be simple to understand and clear. The same goes for communicating with parents. I personally have never been an advocate for difficult grading policies. Keeping it simple will also save you much distress down the road.

Every teacher’s struggle. Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

3. Procedures/Transition. One day soon, I plan on outlining different procedures in my class to share. I love to teach students responsibility and one way I do that is through an ELA council. It gives kids who otherwise would not have a shot at leadership a chance to run in a class election. This is so much less intimidating for kids than running for a schoolwide student council. The ELA council helps carry out some of the procedures and they love ownership and responsibility of helping their classmates (of course I am the overseer).

Some procedures include:

How to distribute and handle technology.

How to reaarange desks for different types of lessons.

How to enter the room.

How to line up to leave.

Where to put backpacks.

Cellphones (most schools require that cellphones be shutoff completely).

How to pass out text books.

Where to turn in assignments.

How to keep the class library clean.

How to take care of the room.

How to greet visitors.

Where to hang coats.

How to treat the supply bins.

How to work in groups/independently/in pairs.

Walking to and from the cafeteria.

The quality of work they turn in.

Depending on your individual class needs, there may be more! That’s okay!

How work should be turned in. It’s okay for them to make mistakes! However, I will accept nothing less than their best. Not pictured is a poster behind the bins that highlights what should be on their paper when they turn it in.
Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

When you set clear expectations, learning takes place and character gets stronger. Remember, behavior, grades, and procedures are three pillars of classroom expectations.

If you feel you “blew it” this year and started to let things slide, do not fret. Take a class period to go back over or create new expectations as soon as possible and most importantly, for clear expectations to work effectively, you have to be consistent. Don’t forget to add praise and incentives when they do a job well done on the expectations.

So yes, even though it is mutiple layers, it all leads back to one factor–clear expectations.

Kia ‘)

Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

This is my classroom six years ago. I have evolved especially in the classroom set up arena. My lights are more dramatic now with more lamps and even indoor/outdoor patio lights. That’s just me and it can vary depending on the room and group of students I have. I always advise DO YOU and what works for you and your kids!
Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

What are some unique ways you set expectations in your class? Share/comment below!

4 Ideas to Spark Your Intrinsic Motivation!

It’s February and much has changed. Many of those who started out with mesmerizing New Year’s resolutions are now back to the old routine. Teachers are giving each other blank stares in the hallway–that spark that most teachers had in August is down to a flicker. Students are getting older and testing limits. Spring is quickly approaching and with that comes state tests, progress monitoring, and close of the school year programs. Teaching can be emotionally, physically, and even spiritually challenging. How do you spark your intrinsic motivation? A day at a time.

What is intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation is the motivation that you have to accomplish, pursue, or complete a task without getting a reward. It is the drive in you–you do it because you simply have the passion for it. Remember when you first became a teacher (it might have been this August)? The intrinsic motivation inside of you was almost piercing. You were determined to reach the next generation. Then the reality of education hit. By October of your first year , you were ready to reconsider this whole teaching gig. I am here to tell you that eventually, your good days will outweigh your bad days the more experience you have.

This is not a magical cure, BUT, here are 4 ideas that can help you spark that intrinsic motivation again–even in February.

1. Surround Yourself with Positive, Motivating People in Your Personal Life.

The worst thing you can do is surround yourself with negative people at school or in your life in general. There is nothing wrong with occasionally venting to a trusted person–you need to. I’m also not saying you can’t be real. However, if all you do is complain and surround yourself with others who do the same, an issue develops and the lenses from which you view situations becomes cloudy and skewed. See the situation for what it is and move on. Positive, motivating people truly want to see you well and support you through the classroom and life. Also, make sure you are a positive, motivating person in return. Before you know it, that parent conference you were not looking forward to comes into perspective once you and the parents sit down and get on the same page.

2. Fill Up on Encouraging Messages

On the way to school, at home, during lunch, or while you are working away during your planning, fill up on encouraging messages that uplift you and encourage you. Some of which if appropriate, you can even share with your students! Someone who I have admired for years is Nick Vujicic. Born without arms or legs, he went from suicidal and having no hope as a child to an international motivational speaker and encourager. It didn’t happen overnight, but he has spoken into the hearts of so many school-aged students and adults alike. Kids are glued to his story of not having arms or legs due to a birth defect and how he overcame major bullying during school.

Check out great music, enriching podcasts/broadcasts, or listen to a great book on tape in the car headed to school regularly. Or, the silence may bring you all the peace you need. You’ll be surprised how it focuses your day!

3. Be One to Encourage Others.

“Hey! Somebody encourage ME!” Here’s some truth– you reap what you sow and you get back what you put in. I cannot get more real than this. Few people are amped up 24/7 but, it’s not hard to tell somebody a quick “great job” or “I appreciate you or I value you.” Do the same for your students.

Today, one of my students pronounced a very difficult phrase on his own in Hindi I believe (it was in a reading selection) after I helped him pronounce it. It shocked me, it shocked the class, and it even shocked him. What was my response when he was reading aloud to the class…”oh my goodness!!!! Look at you!!!!!!” Later I called him up (he had been struggling in all of his classes not to mention being a little void of stellar behavior lately) by my desk. I looked him directly in the eye and said quietly but intently (not to embarrass him), “THIS is why I stay on you. Do you see what you can do?! What you did was awesome! Cut out this silly playing! Look what you can do!” He looked at me so respectfully and proud. His little chest stuck out the rest of class and can you believe that little dude put in better effort this class period than he has in a minute.

4. Fill Up Your Cup and Take Care of Yourself

When I was in my mid-twenties teaching, I would stay at school until very late. One day, the instructional testing leader on my campus leaned his head in my classroom door and said boldly and firmly, “You need to stop staying so late or you will burn out.” This 6’3 man was not playing with me and he was right. A number of people I started teaching with no longer teach. I always believed that teaching is a calling–whether for a season or until retirement. We’ve lost some good ones too early due to burn out.

Take care of yourself. You.have.a.life. Yes, you care about those kids but those kids need you well and energized. Not rundown and distraught. Stay organized (as possible), REST, eat healthy (key–find a plan that works for YOU), try to get exercise as regularly as possible, enjoy family and friends, laugh much, stay spiritually grounded, and don’t sweat the small stuff as they say.

Regularly implementing these four ideas to spark your intrinsic motivation will help you so very much. That spark may just turn into the fire you need to help you for years to come.

Kia’)

Copyright 2020 The Educator’sLight

What are things you do to spark your intrinsic motivation?! Share in the comments.

Have Courage: A Quick Tip Guide on Teaching Through Society’s Challenges.

NBA player Kobe Bryant his daughter and several other people passed away in a helicopter crash. Coronavirus infecting more people in China each day. Screenings at up to 20 airports. Violence rising in cities. Teens missing. Elderly grandmother drove off and has not been located. Now, imagine seeing all of this in one weekend on television and social media and then standing in front of a class of students in just as much shock as you. Forget the lesson, they want answers and comfort. Welcome to teaching today. But here is the good news–have courage, there is hope.

This particular blog post is geared more towards 6th grade and up however, no matter the grade there can be bits and pieces you can certainly take with you. Be advised, younger children are sensitive to news and most things disturbing. Always consult with your campus counselors or leadership if needed on how to communicate if you need to communicate anything at all no matter what grade. Here are 3 quick tips to help you consistently navigate your students through tough societal situations.

1. It is okay to talk about it.

When the news of Kobe Bryant broke on this past Sunday, it was absolutely shocking. To add more grief, we all found out his precious daughter perished in the crash with him along with several other amazing people. Our hearts ached for his wife as we could not imagine the pain she and their family are going though at this time. Monday came. It was a bit somber to be honest.When I walked into the auditorium at school on Monday morning the day after he passed, the counselors set up a brief but heartfelt presentation about him. It was a video of Kobe talking and encouraging youth in a video. The counselors then acknowledged he was no longer with us and was honest but focused on his lasting words and legacy to others as a NBA legend.

When we got to advisory back in our classroom, my homeroom and I spent a bit more time discussing him and his daughter and the other great people on the helicopter. I moderated the discussion to keep it appropriate and focused (we all have that precious student who goes WAY off on class discussons–no boo, come off the tangent and rejoin us haha). My students knew just as much as I did. They simply wanted to talk about it. Mind you, I teach middle school. In one of my classes later that day, one of my students speaks an encouraging word for the class (I’ll share about my class structure in another post:) each day. She decided to share a fact or lasting quote about Bryant each day for the remainder of the week. The class really enjoyed it. It is also helping them grow in empathy. I am proud to see them step up as leaders and see hope in tragedy. There are many positive ways to express feelings but I have found that just talking and being together is one of the most soothing remedies for challenging times.

2. Provide a Sense of Normalcy.

Students need a normal environment especially in difficult situations. Do not spend days on end discussing the tragedy. Some students have already been traumatized through personal situations and though they want to briefly talk about it or hear their classmates discuss it, they need as much “normal” structure as possible. As a teacher, stay upbeat, encouraging, and continue with the lessons as planned. As odd as it sounds, there can be healing in routine. Many times, you are all the encouragement a student may ever have due to their home life. They look to YOU for courage and cues on how to react. So act accordingly and provide a sense of normalcy–it can even help you too.

3. Provide a positive, uplifting environment.

This is not always perfection. With state assessments, curriculum requirements, parent contacts, and more, some teachers say “that’s cute, but I need to finish the data wall.” Honey, I COMPLETELY GET IT. Not to mention you may have a class that is not having a good day because they got in big trouble earlier in the day in another class (and rightfully so) and by the time they get to you, they’re almost done. True story. The joys of education.

But, you CAN create a positive, uplifting environment–especially if you want them to receive learning in the clearest, most receptive way. You can do this by once or twice a week showing student-friendly motivational videos and have them write about it in their journals (aha writing!) and share with a partner or group. You can also have them watch student-appropriate TED talks. In The Educator’s Light bookstore, you will find a free, downloadable, TED talk/motivational talk/video handout to help you out.

Also, you can have them write what they are grateful for each week, write an encouraging note to the person next to them, clap for each other and the list goes on.

**Last, make sure YOU stay uplifted on a consistent basis. YOU can’t pour from an empty vessel.**

Courage is not the absence of fear but moving forward in spite of it. New teacher, you got this. I cannot tell you whether or not society will get better anytime soon. What I can tell you is in spite of it all, when the waves are colliding all around, you stay focused on what is important–these youth who are growing in courage themselves and who will someday help others. Keep the faith and keep pressing forward.

Teach in the Light,

Kia ‘)

© 2020 The Educator’s Light

What are other ways you are creating an uplifting classroom? Share in the comments!

Teacher Appreciation Week Resource Links!

Happy upcoming Teacher Appreciation Week! Though I am so grateful and delighted for the tidings for teachers everywhere, I do believe hardworking, deserving teachers deserve respect and support year round.

I have taken the liberty of researching a few links about Teacher Appreciation Week. These include travel deals, store deals, and more. Some may overlap and that is fine. Please enjoy and know that from The Educator’s Light, we wish you all the best every day of the year.

“Gimme” some great teacher freebies and deals:

The “Thrillest” Deals yet:

https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/teacher-appreciation-week-2019-deals-freebies

Offers.com

https://www.offers.com/blog/post/teacher-discounts/

National Educator’s Association Teacher Day:

http://www.nea.org/grants/teacherday.html

Freebies for Teachers:

https://www.wokv.com/news/national/teacher-appreciation-week-2019-here-list-deals-and-freebies-for-the-nation-educators/G8c18adzNyqEtQ0f3VubOJ/

Forbes Travel Deals:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/micheleherrmann/2019/04/28/travel-deals-teacher-appreciation-week/#14b9e46c6311

Year Round Deals for Teachers! Links below.

(Michael’s is one my personal favorites. 15% off every purchase with your teacher ID)

Teacher.org shares some great discounts:

Grandma knows best with these year round discounts:

https://www.giftcardgranny.com/blog/the-complete-list-of-66-teacher-discounts/

Nothing wrong with Living on the Cheap for teachers:

Teachers you rock! Have a wonderful Teacher Appreciation Week. You deserve it!

Teach in the Light–

Kia

Copyright 2019

The Educator’s Light

Links to websites do not constitute endorsement of the deals or sites’ content.

So, When Is It Time To Leave?

It’s that time of year when many teachers begin to ponder their school year. Transfer applications and guidelines are sent out to entire districts, or the teacher may wonder is it time to leave where they are at for various reasons (sometimes having nothing to do with the school or students) home school parents think “survive another year of this?”

I am grateful to be at a campus this school year where I could literally spend the next 10 years…but that is not everyone’s story. In the past, it wasn’t always mine either. Never will I advocate for you to hop from school to school year after year. That’s unstable. I treasure stability and you should too–especially for the kids. However, sometimes our experience is unbearable or does not go the way we thought. Here are a few tips to decide whether or not you need to leave your campus/assignment as a new teacher or veteran educator.

  1. The school is closing.

Yes. This actually happened to a loved one of mine. There are many educational platforms now. No longer is it just the school district and other brick and mortar establishments. Online education is literally changing the way we see education and how we impact our youth. My relative is a high school physics and chemistry (say whooooooaaa) teacher who is very good. When the staff received the notice that due to low enrollment for the next school year they were closing shop, she applied to many schools and even interviewed. Low and behold (and thankfully) the school contacted her and other staff members mid-summer to let her know they had an influx of students register and/or return. Whew, close call.

2. You have been there a very long time.

I have known teachers to stay at a campus for 20 years or more. If you are respected and love the community and adore the kids you work with, by all means enjoy until retirement or for years to come. I personally was in a situation where I was at the same school for 7 years. By today’s standards, that was a very long time. I did not leave hating anyone but the entire dynamic of the school had changed, and in a way, I felt trapped and extremely uncomfortable.

There had been some very negative things happen of which I had no part, but sensing and observing the negative atmosphere at staff meetings, seeing teachers crying, stressed and baffled–it was weighing many staff members down. One teacher even stood up and had an outburst during a meeting to the shock of everyone present. It had turned into a cliquish, fearful, and an oppressed atmosphere of which I did not want to be a part. That, coupled with being there 7 years, was a huge red flag that it was time to go. Had it remained the same inspiring campus when I began, I would have stayed for a number of more years.

For the first time, I got on the transfer list to the surprise of the principal and went to secondary to gain great experience. I wish no harm on anyone there and I have fond memories of my first 6 years there, especially my beautiful students…but when it came to year 7, I didn’t look back.

3. The principal/administration is not supportive.

Here me out. I am pro teacher all the way but I am also somewhat understanding of administrators. I have been on administrative teams outside of the classroom. Administrators make tough calls not weekly but daily. I have seen admin make tough decisions that may not make the teachers happy at the time, but it is detrimental for the students. Decent administrators want to see the students succeed and grow. Great administrators want to see their teachers and students succeed and grow. They are not just worried about their “favorites.”

If you ever have a principal or admin team berate you, verbally or physically abuse you in anyway, file a report with your union and seek their guidance. Why do I say this? It happens more than you know. Ouch. There are many, many good administrators–and there are many who have little teaching experience, a management certification, and a power trip. Don’t let that make you paranoid and critical, just be kindly aware.

Teachers can be non-renewed and unfortunately, some of them need to be. Teaching is a calling and a gift, not a transitional salary position until you get a “better salaried job.” You are responsible for those young lives. Sometimes the principal may support you but you struggled terribly the entire year. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. It just means teaching may not be for you. Accept that, find a new beginning and career, and respectfully move on.

4. You keep getting passed over for a promotion or leadership roles.

If you are a new teacher, have some patience. I consider a new teacher someone who has taught 3 or less years. If you have been a teacher at a campus for a number of years, have a positive record with your kids and professionalism, and are constantly passed over for promotions or leadership roles on that campus, there is nothing wrong with looking at new options.

Do not be bitter and tell half the staff what went wrong. That is messy and unprofessional. Always evaluate yourself and see what you can do to grow. Maybe you were not a good fit for the job. If you feel the pass over was legitimate, quietly start looking for other positions–there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Continue serving your students and though you may be upset, be as professional and respectful as possible, then when the end of the year comes, plan on moving on.

Sometimes your administrator will tell you exactly why you weren’t chosen. Sometimes they are vague or may not say anything at all. Ultimately, it is their decision. Ultimately, you have the right to move on when your contract is fulfilled.

Regardless, keep it respectful.

This a tough topic to write about. Again, I always advocate stability. No campus or education situation is perfect or easy. That doesn’t mean you should jump on the transfer list. However, there are situations, as with any job, that you may need to seek what’s best for you, your health, and your professional future. There is nothing wrong with that.

Teach in the light–

Kia

Copyright 2019 The Educator’s Light

The Myth Of The Super Teacher

Captain Marvel has made its way to theaters everywhere. I hope to see it next week as I have been told I need to see it before Avengers:Endgame graces us in April with another 2 hour-edge-of-your-seat-action-packed Super Hero thriller and plot sequence. I will admit I am a low-key fan of action movies whether it be Jurassic Park, Avengers, or fantasy like The Lord of The Rings–always have been since I was a little girl. I love my Hallmark and Lifetime too, but I’ll save that for Christmas.

Speaking of Super Heroes earlier, teachers are commonly called Super Heroes. Honestly, I don’t have a problem with it (brushing off my shoulder). My colleagues in education seemingly do amazing feats empowered by grace and faith each day for our kids. To me, just waking up and walking into a building and refusing to give up on the future of this nation is a bold stand. I commend you and you deserve a cape. T-Shirts are sold everywhere and are proudly worn by teachers that state they are Super Heroes or teaching is their SUPERPOWER. Wear it with pride and as the common slang goes “WERK…” because you are already working hard enough.

However, what happens when you are deemed as a “strong teacher” or Super Hero? The answer is simple– society and educational systems think you can handle anything and everything. More paperwork, more students, more tests. The reality is you are only human. In my personal life experience, I vehemently understand even the strongest teachers need support and help. Just because you or I do not walk around complaining about our class, email barrages, administration, or personal life does not mean no one needs to check on us.

Sincerely ask, ” hey, I just want to see how you are doing and are you okay with everything?” Those 2 behavior students you just transferred to my class because the other teacher couldn’t” handle” them (true story)? Yes, it is overwhelming on top of the fact they were transferred to my most challenging class period while I am trying to teach these students with low academic levels.

I admonish you to check on a strong teacher today. I am so grateful to be at a school this year with the best staff I have ever worked with. The past teaches us quite a bit, just make sure you learn and move forward. I was that “strong” teacher. I was told many times over my career and I truly loved my students. They were and are my biggest focus in what I do. I was honored, but for so long quite a bit was put on me. I always found a way to do it for the most part, but I learned the hard way. Remember–strong teachers/people can burnout too so show some love.

Find those 1-2 trusted people on campus you can talk to, vent, and laugh with. It can literally propel you for years. Also, take a mental day at least once a semester. Get a massage, facial, or go on a nature hike (one of my favorites), visit and talk with family and close friends, journal, make a vision board, eat healthy, and reprioritize your life if need be. Time and life go by quickly, so make sure you are taking care of yourself.

Teachers are truly remarkable people. Many have given up dreams of corporate stints and jet-setting to boldly walk in a school building with youth and believe in the impossible each day. Enjoy your coffee, tea or water this morning, hold your head up, take care of yourself and oh, don’t forget to straighten your cape…you have work to do. ‘)

Teach in the Light–

Kia

Copyright 2019 The Educator’s Light

How do you uplift other teachers?