Rethinking The Superhero Teacher Persona

Rethinking The Superhero Teacher Persona

The perception of what a teacher looks like has morphed into an unrealistic superhero who stays at school from sunup to sundown, volunteers for everything, and is always available for their students. Maybe it started with movies like Freedom Writers in which main character Erin Gruwell dedicates herself to her students and works a part-time job to fund her students field trips. What people seem to miss in this movie is that she ends up divorced and neglects everyone else in her life. Oh, and in real life she only teaches for four years before leaving and starting an organization to help other teachers. She only lasted four years in the classroom because that life is not sustainable! Yet, somehow we still hold teachers to these standards.

What this teacher superhero persona neglects to consider is the sustainability and retention of teachers. Do schools need a few years from superhero teachers who then burnout, or do they need quality long lasting teachers? (I hope we can all agree on quality long lasting teachers.)

If we want teachers to stay in the profession, we need to stop with the superhero exceptations. From my experience, even the most dedicated teacher takes a few years to really become great. Problem is, too many of these teachers can only last a few years like Gruwell and end up leaving the profession just as they become amazing teachers. They’ve pushed themselves too hard to live up to these unrealistic expectations and tap out of the game, which means schools are losing teachers as they reach their peak.

Another issue is that the expectations thrown on teachers often come with little to no support or guidance besides the push to do more. If we want more from our teachers we need to provide them with more. This means investing in teachers by offering better pay, providing materials, and providing professional development for growth instead of shaming them for not working harder, longer days. Teacher health and wellness must also become a priority.

What it comes down to it, we need to rethink and evaluate our expectations for teachers. Teachers are superheroes in their own right, but they are human too. Instead of pushing teachers to give up everything for teaching, let’s focus on a balance of work and life and support so we can keep our best in the classroom for decades not years.

Teachers, 5 Tips To Stop Working All Sunday And Start The Week Off Right

Teachers, 5 Tips To Stop Working All Sunday And Start The Week Off Right

Sunday should be a day of relaxation, but if you’re busy grading, creating lessons, and prepping materials for the upcoming week, it can be extremely stressful. Teachers, it’s time to reclaim your Sunday! Instead of working and stressing, use these 5 tips to take back your Sundays and start your week less stressed!

  • Take time Sunday for self-care and you time. Starting the new week by prioritizing yourself will make you feel good and help you to continue to make yourself a priority throughout the week. The work week doesn’t feel as daunting when you set a self-care positive tone! Put down the papers and do something for yourself right now!
  • Have a routine for Monday mornings and include something you enjoy. Having a routine will help make sure your Monday starts off right and get you back into work mode faster without having to do a ton on Sunday. Instead of including a long list of to dos, figure out the most important things you need to accomplish Monday before school and make them the priority of your routine. Oh, and including something you enjoy like a latte from your favorite coffee shop will make it even better!
  • Don’t leave too much work for the weekend. When you have a long list of work to do on Sunday, it’s going to be stressful. The weekend is time off for work for a reason. You may have to do a little work Sunday, it happens, but don’t have a full 8 hour days of work to do. You’ll feel cheated of your own time and exhausted on Monday. How do you accomplish this? Read the next tip…
  • Have a checklist of tasks to complete by Friday so you don’t have to work all weekend. In order to keep from having a ton of work to do on Sunday, get your work done by Friday. This checklist should include your weekly obligations like grades, lessons, IEPs, data tracking, and planning. Spread the work out throughout the week and finish it all up before leaving for the weekend. When you make a list of what needs to be done to keep you from working on the weekends, you’ll be able to plan it into your week and find time to get it done. You’ll be thankful on Sunday!
  • Stop agreeing to non-mandatory work that stresses you out. If it’s not mandatory or completely necessary then say no. Spreading yourself too thin means your focus is all over the place, and you’re work quality is going to suffer. So if your weekend is filled doing these types of work things, stop!
How To Use Movies For Learning And Not Just As Fillers

How To Use Movies For Learning And Not Just As Fillers

The running joke has always been that teachers show movies on days they’re sick, tired, or haven’t planned anything for the day, but the power of movies is underrated in the classroom. Movies and videos help students visualize books, see history, and understand new perspectives that just reading or lecturing can’t do. Movies and video are also highly engaging for students if used correctly in the classroom.

The problem is that movies or videos can be very tricky to use in the classroom if not thought out and executed correctly. There’s a fine line of engaging students with movies ,overwhelming them with questions throughout the movie, and students falling asleep. Even so, don’t shy away from using them in fear of looking like a lazy teacher. Embrace the power of a purposefully chosen movie to engage, enhance, and inspire discussions in your classroom with these tips:

  • Set clear expectations before watching the movie. Students should know what behavior you expect during the movie (sitting up, heads up, quiet mouths ect.), why they’re watching the movie, and what activities will accompany the movie. Setting clear expectations and purpose will help ensure a better movie watching experience for all.
  • Prepare a few important questions for students to answer that require them to pay attention throughout the video. A lot of teachers create viewing guides with lots of questions that students answer throughout the movie. This can be distracting when students are so focused on answering questions that they miss experience of watching the movie. Small random facts are not what students should be focused on. Questions should be overarching themes, ideas, and concepts that connect to other activities you’re doing in class.
  • Keep videos short. Don’t spend a whole period watching a movie. Engage students with the subject before and after the video to engage them in discussions, writing, and group work. If you only watch a movie during a class period, you risk students zoning out and daydreaming. It’s important to chunk activities and movies/videos should be apart of this chunking.
  • Compare and contrast different videos of the same subject. Instead of watching only one video, watch a few and ask students to compare and contrast the subject they’re studying based on these videos. It keeps the videos short and the lesson moving along.
  • Stop and start videos. If you want students to watch a whole movie then break it up by stopping and having a conversation, writing activity, or answer questions throughout the movie before starting again. It keeps students engaged by chunking activities and less likely to fall asleep as well as checks understanding and students ability to connect the movie to bigger themes you’ve been discussing in class.
  • Make sure there is an assessment that goes along with the movie or video. This can be an informal or formal assessment, but students should know that your purposefully picked a movie that they need to pay attention to and that they will need to demonstrate some kind of learning afterwards. If the video has no connection or accountable, students are much less likely to watch.
3 Things Schools Should Learn From Tech Companies For Happier Employees

3 Things Schools Should Learn From Tech Companies For Happier Employees

A lot of tech companies are known for their amazing offices and thriving culture with happy employees who never want to leave. They have seemingly found the secret to the fine line of satisfying their employees and still being productive. Yet, schools are losing teachers left and right and struggling with to maintain positive culture. It seems about time that schools learn a few things from these tech companies.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking; these tech companies have deep pockets with funding pouring in and schools can barely afford to pay their teachers. Yes, there are major differences between the tech world and the education sector, but I believe that there are three simple changes schools could implore that would bring about big change: time for collaboration, investing in health/wellness, and flexibility. These ways may look different from school to school, but they can make a world of difference. Ask any employee at a tech company!
1. Time for Collaboration

Any smart business gives it’s employees time to collaborate. Collaboration allows for great minds to bounce ideas off each other and come up with even better ideas, solutions, and plans together as well as creates a culture of sharing. In schools, a lot of teachers don’t have much time to collaborate with their colleagues so they work independently missing opportunities to get an outside point of view or get input to grow good ideas into great ideas. Making time for teachers to collaborate can save on resources, time spent planning, and lead to student success. Your school is a wealth of knowledge, but the knowledge has to have time to share with others to be worthwhile.
2. Investing in Health/Wellness

A lot of startups focus on their employee health and wellness. They know that happy, healthy employees do better work. Teachers are no exception, and a happy, healthy teacher will be more engaged and have better student outcomes compared to exhausted, stressed teachers. Giving teachers more breaks (teachers need time to pee!), better support, and clean working environments are small ways to help improve health and wellness. Studies have also shown that professional developments on teacher health, stress management strategies, and mindfulness strategies for teachers also help reduce daily stress and upgrade teacher health.
3. Flexibility

Of course a teacher can’t work from home on a school day, but what about work from home professional development days? Or what about allowing teachers decide what professional development they want to do? Simple opportunities for choices and flexibility like this show that schools are willing to work with teacher when they can. There are a number of ways to allow teachers small flexible options throughout the school year that can help raise morale.

Stop Making Promises Involving Your Health And Start Acting

Stop Making Promises Involving Your Health And Start Acting

Promises are great in theory, but not always as great to follow through on, especially when they’re hard like getting and starting healthy. As a teacher, promises can lead to a whole lot of trouble in class if you throw around empty promises of consequences but never follow through. Students will quickly stop believing you, and continue to act out because why would your students stop when they know you aren’t going to act?

Now let’s apply the same situation to your health. You promise yourself to focus more on self-care, health, and wellness. You don’t act and just keep telling yourself tomorrow you’ll start on these promises. In the end, you don’t even believe yourself, so why would you ever follow through on them?

You’re smart enough to know that talking about getting healthy doesn’t produce results, but the promise of doing something satisfies our desire for change long enough to make us feel better without having to act. Your health is more important than empty promises though. It is worth taking action and following through. So, let’s turn talk into action. Here’s a few tips to help you get started!

  • Hold yourself accountable. One way I do this is by signing up for a race and telling other people about it. If I tell myself I’m going to run a marathon, pay the money for the race, and tell my friends I’m running it, then I feel like I have to way more than just telling myself I’m going to run a race. Another good way is to sign up for classes that you can’t cancel or you’ll lose money. You’ll feel much more accountable if you paid already.
  • Make a schedule. Without a schedule you’ll find every excuse to skip out on working out, cooking dinner, mediation, or whatever else healthy habits you’re working on. Make your daily health an important meeting on your calendar. You can’t skip important meetings!
  • Set small goals and rewards for achieving them. Have you been wanting to go on a trip? Put a dollar in the jar every time you complete a workout, or if you work out 5 days a week for 3 months then book the trip! It’s about making fitness positive, not a punishment.
  • Track your progress. Track what you eat, how you feel, and what you do daily. Tracking helps you to see visually daily progress. We are visual beings, so this can help you stay on track by being more aware of daily habits.
  • Think about what you get to do, not what you don’t. We often look at healthy people as missing out on cake, cookies, and all the other amazingly delicious foods. We think about what we can’t have as a healthy person. Change your mindset! When you’re healthy you get to eat, move your body, and feel good! You’re lucky to be able to be healthy.
Bouncing Back From A Rough Start To The School Year

Bouncing Back From A Rough Start To The School Year

School started and things just aren’t going as planned. Your class routine is a mess, and your students aren’t working in groups the way you thought. And oh yeah, you’re already exhausted. Does this sounds faintly familiar? It’s okay if it does; you aren’t alone. Luckily, it doesn’t have to stay this way.

The start of the school year is exciting, but it can also feel a little overwhelming when your picture perfect class isn’t picture perfect. A rough start to the year can set a bad tone for what’s to come for the next 9-10 months if you don’t turn it around quickly. You have the power to make it better though! Changing how your mindset, behaviors, and goals can shift the year from rough to great!

Here are a few of my favorite approaches and changes that will help you bounce back from that rough start and get your year back into awesome territory!

Growth mindset

When things go wrong, be willing to use them as learning experiences instead of looking at them as failures. Taking a bad day or failed lesson and learning from your mistakes will make you a better teacher. Be thankful that you are able to learn and grow from the mistakes. Having a growth mindset will change your attitude from defeated to ready to try again.

Be flexible

Your original plan for the year might be on a path to disaster. It stinks, but be willing to be flexible. If you refuse to change, there’s a good chance you’ll spend the year in a miserable battle trying to fit a circle into a square hole. Until you know your students and your class dynamics, it’s hard to know exactly what will work. Now that you’ve got to know your students and classes, think about what might need to change based on students abilities, interests, ect.

Solution based thinking

When a problem arises, instead of complaining focus on looking for solutions. Think of it as a challenge or a puzzle to solve, and you’ll change the negative mindset to be more positive. Who doesn’t like a good challenge?!

Reflect daily and look for trends

Think about what went well, and what needs improved daily. Be honest and objective. When you do this daily, you may see trends of what triggers off task behaviors or what engages students. If every time you do a certain activity students act out then maybe there is something with this activity that you need to adjust to improve your lesson.

Acknowledge the good

It’s easy to get stuck in a negative outlook when the year starts off bad, but make an effort to acknowledge the good things daily. Looking for the good will help turn your mindset around, and you’ll feel more positive in general. Mind over matter.

Create goals with small obtainly steps

Having big goals for the school year is great, but how are you going to get there? When you have only a large goal that takes awhile to reach, it can become defeating and feel like you’re failing. Break large goals into small ones that you can meet often. Meeting these small goals will make you feel like you are getting somewhere quicker and lift your mood. Focus your goals on the things that aren’t going great, and use your solution based thinking to create the small goals for these areas.

Ask for help

Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s the smart and mature thing to do when you really need it. Be willing to seek out people and resources to be successful. No one can do it on their own, and you’ll find a lot of people gladly willing to help at your school or online.