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 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

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. 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.


Copyright 2020 The Educator’sLight

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

The MAIN Product A Teacher Needs For Organizing a School Year!


Why does it seem like everywhere I look there are some of the CUTEST ideas for organization? I have to admit it– I am a sucker for office supplies, planners, and pretty much anything that deals with planning and organization. Add gorgeous decorations and I am hooked. It’s quite motivational. Like many, I am not perfect at it, but I’m striving.

Planning for a school year can be daunting to say the least. It’s like an illusive labyrinth with the end goal being the middle that seems almost impossible to obtain.

I love so many ideas, but I would like to share one idea that has worked well for me. Teachers (both men and women) love these two words: cheap or free.

What is the main product a teacher needs to plan their year? Ahhhem…drumroll.

A cheap calendar. 

“Wait, that’s it?” That’s it. “What if I have a really nice one I just bought with cool tabs?” Don’t let your money go to waste. Use it. Enjoy the glitter on the front while your at it. Send me a picture so I can admire its adorableness as well.

That’s it.

Some of the highest progress, scores (though their not everything) best lesson plans, and best activities, came from using one. simple. calendar…with nice-sized squares. Your welcome.

Why is this the main product?

I am the type of person where I start with the end in mind or I need to see the big picture first then work backward. I have had coworkers who are the opposite–they start small then work forward a week or two at a time or anyone can be a mix of both. That’s okay too.

Using a simple calendar supports several planning types.

Stay organized. As I always like to say to teachers “If you are in chaos, your students will be in chaos.” Yes, there is the reality of papers all over your desks in addition to papers overflowing in the turn in bin. You may have to work at it, but your sanity will thank you.

How does it work?

I am glad you asked. I am so excited about including resources that can aid you in this process. Coming soon!!!

Where can I get one?

Almost everywhere. Dollar stores, grocery stores, specialty stores, or for free at some credit unions etc. Nothing fancy unless that’s your personality–then go for it!


Stay tuned for simple tips on planning your year.

Stay in the light–


© 2018


What are products you use that help keep you organized and sane? Comment below!