My TED Talk: Teachers Find Your Courage

Why we need our courage back

As teachers, we get so into our day to day lives, lesson planning, collaborating, working with students, struggling with things outside of our control, making copies….All of these little things that happen during the day and demand our time and attention.  Before you know it, the day is over and its home to grade papers, be a parent, coach, spouse, sing at church, do community service, and bed.  Just to get up the next day and repeat this cycle.  As the days blend into weeks, which turn into months, and then school years, we accept all that has been piled onto us.  We lose our voice a little.  Or if we think about speaking out when something does happen, we worry – there may be backlash, or my job could be in jeopardy because I disagree with the administration or our political leaders.

Its time to take back our courage!  To regain from those that would seek to push teachers down and insult us as lazy – summers are off, we only work 8:30-3:30 with one hour lunches.  Courage to talk to those who speak with loud voices that are schools are failing and doing so because the teachers do not care – they only teach to the test.  Have the courage to take back our profession – we are amazing people!  We are care givers to those who struggle!  We look out for those who do not know how to speak for themselves yet!  We help students see the importance of being citizens and all of the wonderful things that come with that responsibility in the United States!  We are shoulders to cry on when students are in the middle of a horrible mess!  We are the loudest encouragers of those in our classrooms every day!  We spend our own money to feed students who cannot afford to eat!  We help each other out with playground duty and lunch duty!  We hold our students to high expectations!  When they don’t meet those expectations, we dust them off and build them up again, we never give up!

THIS IS WHO WE ARE, REFUSE TO LET ANYONE ELSE SAY DIFFERENTLY!

When someone questions you about the length of the school day – have the courage to  invite them to spend the entire day with you.  Let them see that you are in the building well before the school day.  Show them how crazy it can be teaching all of the different types of students you teach.  Use your courage and allow your visitor to follow you home and be with you as you grade papers.  Give this person the opportunity to see how amazing you are!

What about summers they say?  Have the courage to call them and have them on the phone with you the entire time you plan out a cool new unit, or research out an idea that you have been wanting to try.  Give these folks the location of the conference you will be attending to grow as a teacher and have your visitor meet you there.

Just teach to the test they say.  Use a worksheet they say.  All kids are the same they say.  NO – there is more to teaching than handing out mindless junk for student to commit to memory to regurgitate on a standardized test!  Use your courage with all of the cool technology in the classroom.  Show them that creating meaning and strong relationships with your students takes investment and sacrifice.  Explain how this is not possible to do with worksheet and that an end of year, high stakes exam does not measure true learning.

DO NOT LET SOMEONE TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE!

Have the courage to give people the opportunity to see the different blessings that come up in your day.  That you take time to put a band-aid on a cut.  That you calm down the upset student.  That you are doing your best to meet 28 different students in 64 different places.  Use your courage to let people know all students learn differently.   Courageously explain how every student is different and that they all learn at different rates.  Do your best to put into layman’s terms what differentiated instruction is and why its so important and how standardized does not even begin to describe what your students are like.

Failure is an OPTION!

All this talk about testing and testing and changing the test to be more rigorous (whatever that really means) – we all learn through trial and error.  Have the courage to embrace this!  Trial and Error = Fail and Tweak!  Have courage here, try something new, reflect about how it went.  Modify your lesson.  Use your courage to try it again…Yes our schools get sorted and ranked by the testing that occurs, but there is an amazing amount of learning that occurs when failure happens.  Use your courage to pick up these students and let them see what needs to be done differently.  Have the courage to just say no to a year long test prep process.  Have courage to truly give your students an education that carries them all through their lives.

Do you remember the first time you rode a bike?  It took courage AND you probably fell at least one time.  But you got back on the bike and learned from your mistakes.  Have the courage to do this with your students in the classroom.  Have the courage to do this with your professional practice.  HAVE COURAGE TO TRY NEW THINGS!

BE POSITIVE!

Life is so much better with a positive outlook.  Have courage to be positive everyday – post those positive thoughts to social media.  Use courage to get out of your comfort zone and spread joy around your building and community.  Let people know how excited you are to be a teacher!  YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE EVERY SINGLE DAY!  HAVE THE COURAGE TO ENJOY THIS! 

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