This weekend, as I was reflecting on my week, I ran across an article by Daniel Steele entitled "Letter to a Discouraged Student".  This was a very profound letter.  Beautifully written from a principal to student perspective.  While I have no idea if this was actually written for a specific student or for the general masses.  One thing is for sure, it applies to every student who struggles with school and every student who did struggle with school.  I can relate to this letter.  

We as educators always put ourselves in the place to make things better for kids.  I am not the type of person that likes to be at the front of attention, especially in large crowds.  Being in a leadership position at times does put you at the forefront.  Remembering my first year as an Athletic Director being put in the position of heading one of the largest departments in the district was a real growing moment in my professional/personal life.  At the end of each year, we held an athletic awards banquet.  Of course, the MC?  Me.  This was a nerve-racking situation for me all year.  I started working out what I was going to say months before it was time.  In the end, it was fine.  I was nervous, to say the least.  The next year I repeated the event and pushed through.  

While I know that this was a weakness of mine, it didn't stop me from doing what was important, being there for kids.  Most recently I was in a similar position where our student-body was looking for people to be part of a fundraiser that in the end, the winner would get a pie in the face in front of the whole school.  There were some pretty popular teachers as well as the Principal that all signed up.  I figured I would be way down the list before getting picked.  Nope!  I was in the top three.  So that meant pie in the face!  Now, this is something that put me in front of everybody again.  I did it because it was important to kids.

Kids, I know my weaknesses and I know my strengths.  Being part of the attention is not one of them.  But know that even if it means being front and center with the spotlight on me, if that is what you need, I will do it.  Know that I am in your corner.


Be relentless about creating, maintaining, and sustaining a positive culture in your schools. What students experience becomes their norm. 

We all know that many of our students experience norms at home that we would not want in our schools, but we must counteract that with a positive culture. That all begins with the relationships we develop with our stakeholders, most importantly our students. While high-quality instruction and rigorous content are important, relationships trump all of that. I am often taken back to a quote that my former high school principal said to me when I was in grad school. “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” There is so much truth to that statement. The roadmap to being a great teacher with solid relationships with students is no different than being a great parent. It is filled with love and high expectations. 

Just remember moving forward that school climate is how teachers and students act when the superintendent is in the room but culture is how they act when he/she is not in the room. Focus on culture, not climate. Climates change from day-to-day but cultures will stand the test of time. 

I recently saw this graphic on Twitter posted from @JustinTarte.  This image sums up one of my favorite quotes.  “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.  This quote has stuck with me over the years.  The first time that I heard it I was in graduate school working on my Masters in Education.  This quote is so true.  Even the perception of caring is important.  If we as educators who deeply care about kids don’t actually show that we care, kids will perceive that we don’t.

I remember back in grad school there was this professor that taught us about all the skills for classroom management.  One of the statements that he always said that we should take to heart is “Don’t smile until after Thanksgiving”.  I guess this was to show kids that you are all business and not to be messed with and that it would help out with classroom management issues.  Personally, I never bought into this.  The teachers that I remember in school were the ones that were funny and smiled.  

Kids need to know that their teachers are human and that they can have fun too.  It is possible to have fun with kids and smile each day while still having successful classroom management.  Perception of caring does matter.

This week I overheard a conversation between a counselor and the principal about a teacher who had advocated to teach an honors class next year over the regular counterpart. The feeling of the teacher was that the new first-year teacher who was scheduled to teach the honors class would not be able to provide the rigor that the class needed.

As I sat in my office hearing this conversation, all I could keep asking myself was “Was rigor the real reason this teacher wanted the honors class?” Later I found myself muttering quietly, “Just teach kids!”  We have this unspoken rule/policy/addendum, whatever you would like to call it, that every teacher in core classes get to teach an honors type class with the high achieving kids. Something about each teachers wanting the “prestige”. Did we really come to this that teaching is about the prestige?  I thought that teaching was about the kids?
When we change the focus from certain kids to ALL kids we truly get back to the roots of education.  Education is a humanitarian career path.  Nobody got into this profession for the money and prestige.  Everybody during their first interview and every interview after that displayed a sincere joy for kids and want to see them succeed.  Somewhere along the way, some teachers lose the focus of ALL students and focus on CERTAIN students.
Regardless, teaching is still one of the most prestigious professions.  According to a Harris Interactive poll done sporadically from 1977 to 2009, teaching is still one of the most well-respected and prestigious professions, ranking 6th under firefighters, scientists, doctors, nurses, and military officers.  While the cultural view is that teachers are held in high regard and that teaching is a very prestigious career, we need to always remember why we got into this profession, kids.
Friday’s are great!  Everybody comes to school with smiles on their faces knowing that in a few short hours they will get a couple of days to unplug.
While teachers work hard and deserve some time to unplug like weekends, winter, and spring breaks, some students do not feel the same way. For some kids in all of our communities, school is the best environment that they have. Teachers are the most positive role model that some kids have in their lives. Leaving for a weekend for these kids is not a time to unplug but rather filled with negative and sometimes hurtful times. For some, this will be two days that they won’t have a warm building to be in or food to eat.
I recently saw this tweet by Dr. Justin Tarte (@justintarte) that really had me thinking more about the reality of what some of our kids go home to every night.
 
Not all of your students are as excited about Friday as you are. Make each moment count today as they could mean much more than you think.