Teaching with Compassion

Photo by Mayur Gala on Unsplash

"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them, humanity cannot survive." -Dalai Lama
I think all educators lose sight of the big picture from time to time, myself included. We are so busy doing what we think we MUST: grading the papers, making the copies, sending the emails, and perfecting the lessons. Do we always find time for the things we OUGHT to do? Do we smile more at our students? Do we say hello in the hallways? Do we compliment our students? Do we ask them how they are doing-- really doing-- and wait for the answer and actually listen?

On my good days, sure, I do these things.  On my bad days, the days I am caught up in doing what I think I MUST, I send a child over to the stacks alone, telling myself I'm teaching  independence when really, I just want to finish the email I am writing. When I am too wrapped up in my own agenda, I scribble the pass to the library for lunch, barely looking up at the human being in f…

The Importance of Mentors

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Recently,  I attended an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for the son of a close friend. I knew that
his achievement  was very special, but  I didn't realize how emotional the ceremony would be. The part that touched me the most was when my friend's son gave out "mentor pins" to three people who helped him achieve his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout.

As  I dabbed the tears welling in my eyes, I started thinking about the three people who have most influenced my career as a school librarian and educator. While there are many people who have had a  positive influence on me over the years, my three "mentor pins" go to my mother, Ann Swift; my predecessor in the library, Mary Lou Purpura; and a phenomenal teacher and  dear friend, Barbara Kistner.

My first mentor is my mom, a retired science teacher. I know that my mom was a great teacher because I was actually in her science class in 7th grade in Saint Thomas the Apostle School in Blo…

What if every day were Halloween?

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What if every day were Halloween?

Initially this sounds like a very, very bad idea. Children going door to door demanding and consuming large quantities of sugar? Every day?! It's a teacher's and parent's nightmare.

But hear me out. In school, there are some very specific guidelines for celebrating Halloween that would be useful if we could abide by them every day.

No masks

On Halloween students are not allowed to wear masks to school for safety reasons. What if children never wore emotional masks? What if the child who WON'T do the work told you the truth is he CAN'T do the work? What if the children who insist that they are fine when they are anything but told you how they are really feeling inside? What if that overachiever admitted that she was really desperate for your approval instead of being desperate for the extra point you didn't give her? It would make our jobs a lot easier if our students never wore masks. But the…

See the Whole Child

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I wrote and rewrote this blog several times. First draft? Too negative. Second draft? Too preachy. Third draft? Negative and preachy. I finally decided on heartfelt honesty.

You see, I've messed up. If you have been teaching for more than a week, you have probably messed up, too. We're humans. I didn't reach every single child that I ever taught. Sure, they learned about literature or grammar or the Dewey Decimal System. But I didn't connect with every student. I saw missing homework instead of a child who needed me to motivate him. I saw overdue books instead of a girl who loved reading but lacked organization. I saw what my own ego was reflecting back to me. I saw a child as somehow not living up to what I expected of him or her. I didn't see the challenge for me to try harder, do better, or dig deeper. I failed. I didn't see the whole child.

But I'm trying to see the whole child now. And as far as weeks go, this…

You Matter

Photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash

I didn't feel like waiting for a special day to spread some love, so here are some shout-outs to all of the teachers and other staff members who make a difference in the lives of students everyday. In no particular order, I would like to thank you.

Special Education Teachers
You matter. You teach me that learning is NEVER "One size fits all." No one explains things better than you, advocates more fiercely than you, and appreciates every gain in learning more than you. Thank you.

Classroom Aides and One-on-One Aides
You matter. You are unsung heroes in my book. You do a million little things and don't often get the credit you deserve. You make sure students are ready to learn and help smooth out all the little bumps on the way to success. Thank you.

School Nurse
You matter. You boldly go where most of us fear to tread. Puke, blood, and mucus? All before 10 a.m.? Wow. You amaze me. You heal the little boo-boos and you're there f…

The Honeymoon Is Over

Photo by Davide Ragusa on Unsplash

The leaves are falling, the pumpkin-themed products have established their dominance over all, and despite an unseasonably warm month, it's officially fall. The shiny new school supplies aren't so shiny anymore, the newness of the school year is wearing off, and the marking period is half over. May I be so bold as to say that the honeymoon is over?

What I mean is that the students, the teachers, and the parents are fully into the swing of things. We all know what that means. We are all just a little bit exhausted. Homework has been forgotten, assignments have been lost, and students may be getting just a little chatty or a little unfocused. They're kids after all, not robots programmed for optimal learning performance.

So now is when the real work begins. That book I recommended? The student didn't like it. I have to dig a little deeper and think about something else to recommend. That vow I made to keep my desk neater and…

Let Me Be Your Cheerleader

Jony Ariadi

Teaching is hard. Really, really hard. So if you're feeling tired and sweaty (what a week!) and a little bit down, let me be your cheerleader.

When I cleared the paper jam in the printer, I saw that lesson plan you  clearly agonized over . I overheard that encouraging comment you made to the kid who needed that little bit of extra nurturing. I read your tweets about the hands-on lesson you executed like a boss.

And I hear you sigh when you think no one's listening. Sometimes I see your shoulders sag with the weight of all the papers you're carrying. I can almost hear you think aloud, "I wonder if the job I'm doing is good enough."

It is. Believe me, it is.

But if you're feeling like you need a little cheering up, let me be your cheerleader. When you're feeling a little battered and bruised from the awesome responsibility of shaping the minds and souls of young people, sit down in my corner of the ring. Let me be your cut person.

Lean on …