5 Stories to Inspire Teachers to Never Let Anyone Steal Your Joy

Dry Erase Markers.
Yesterday, all the dry erase markers in my whole room were gone. Not a big deal, you say. If you knew that I always keep about 12 and 4 in reserve and that all, even the reserves were gone.

dry erase markers
Two Staplers.
How about that last week, both of my staplers with my name labeled on them were taken.

Favorite Pens.
Or the week before that – that all of my favorite ink pens went missing including those I buy with my own money because they are too expensive for the school to buy.

Or the week before that – it was all my pencils.

My Most Useful “Gadget”: My LiveScribe SmartPen.
But to top it off, I have to admit something. Something I'm ashamed to tell you because a dear friend gave this as a gift to me. Someone who reads this blog. He gave me something I loved and treasured very much and as soon as I get back through this year, I will buy again. My liveScribe pen was taken and my students and I have isolated it down to a 5 minute period when it went missing.

Messing Around.
Someone is “messing with me” as they say.

Set up
The Livescribe Pen is one of my favorite classroom tools.

I am Ashamed.
It is shameful to admit this because we'd all like to pretend that we captivate the hearts of all of our students and they sing our praises all day long. But that would be a lie. Every great teacher has some kids who just don't like them. And I've got one for sure this year. I have my suspicions.

I am somewhat ashamed but know that a child like that wants attention and the gratification to see me upset. I also know that the harm of a false accusation on my part would be more shameful than just moving on.

I got upset about my Livescribe and so they thought it was funny and gave me more of that. I'm ignoring it. The kids who love me will tell me eventually, they always do.

Found: My Dignity and Self Worth Amidst the Stories
But until this comes to light, as such things inevitably do, I have to hold onto the stories from this week.

  • Hold onto the senior who gave ME a gift on his last day of school yesterday for “what I've meant to him.” 
  • Or the parent who called my house to say how she cried when she saw her 14 year old daughter's website. 
  • Or the parent who called my Daddy and told him how much I have meant to his daughter and family and how I changed her life. 
  • Or the three seniors who proudly brought me a “Cool Cat” mug that they had found for me. 
  • Or the senior who put “Thank you Mrs. Vicki for all you've done. This senior movie would not be possible without you” in the credits of the slideshow.” 

 These are the stories I hold on to.In fact, I have a folder where I write down and keep these stories for the days I feel down. They can steal my markers, my gadgets, my pens and pencils, but they cannot steal my nobility and my joy for teaching them. This too shall pass.

    I know that you have your stories of meaning. You also have your secret shame that you think:

    “If I was a better teacher ___ wouldn't have happened.”

    If you're such a great teacher why would someone be so hateful?

    Because no one is perfect. No one is liked by everybody and people (especially kids) can be mean. Sometimes those with the greatest anger most need your life and they fight you just before you break through!

    Everyone sings the praises of teachers but don't know that most of us have that one student or two who hurt us and cause us pain.

    Great Teachers Overcome Great Obstacles
    The greatest teachers often have the greatest obstacles to overcome! The greatest shames.

    When you watch movies like Freedom Writers or Mr. Holland's Opus you see the climax in your mind with everyone applauding. You don't really see the pain. You don't remember the heartache of the characters as they experience their own humiliation and failure. They are there. Watch the movies again.

    Stories from PopularAuthors.
    So, when eBook publisher Open Road media contacted me about sharing stories from their authors about the greatest teachers, I jumped at the chance.

    I want you to read these stories and picture the kids in your classroom writing about you in 20 years. What would they say?

    Look at the things that make great teachers. Keep your eye on the stories. Making a difference to just one child at a time. Knowing that the upset-ness you feel over that one situation went awry is lying to you. YOU CAN BE A GREAT TEACHER.

    And you also don't remember that often the praise of the teacher is sung when their career is OVER. When they are DONE. You're not done. You're here and now.

    So, hold onto these stories and BE the story. BE the living inspiration. And know that these stories were written by ONE person each. Don't let the ONE or TWO who enjoy making a sport of your consternation cause you to be less of a teacher to the other 95% of the students in your class. That isn't noble and it is beneath you.

    And remember that if you are a parent as our first author says, that perhaps the greatest need for teaching applies to you.

    College professors, parents, and all teachers. There is a story here for you.

    From Open Road media: Who would we be without the great teachers and mentors in our lives? In honor of Teacher's Appreciation Month, Open Road Media, an ebook publisher, asked authors to reflect on the teachers who actually “made” them the successful individuals they are today. From memories of beloved, bookish parents to appreciation of a friend who taught the importance of resilience, these stories are inspiring and worthy of sharing with friends, readers and our next generation of future writers. I'm excited to share them all for the first time on Cool Cat for you to read and share!
    Note from Vicki: I have added headings to the original article.

    The Teachers Who Made Me
    Stories from Successful Writers

    “First and foremost on the list of “teachers who made me” would be my father. At the time I was a little kid, my father had only a high school education, but he was always reading. He’s a history-buff; I think history-buffery is something that you pick up from someone else, some other person, who opens that door. He was that person. Second on the list would be my mother – also, at the time, with only a high-school education (though they both went back for college classes as soon as they had time – Dad got a couple of degrees). Mom looked on “what-to-read-your-children” lists and read to us, every night and sometimes in the mornings before we left for school. Reading is something that (I believe) people also learn primarily at home – a horrible challenge in these days when it takes two incomes to keep a family afloat and both parents (if there ARE two parents) come home exhausted. There’s a long list of teachers also – Liz Blair when I was a freshman in High School, Dr. Jeffrey Russell at UC Riverside – but it started with my parents. God bless them and all those who work to open their children’s minds!” 

    – Barbara Hambly is a New York Times bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction, as well as historical novels set in the nineteenth century. Read more about Barbara Hambly.

    Story #2 John Lutz. My Eighth Grade Teacher, Ms. Meyers

    “My eighth grade teacher, Ms. Meyers, understood that I loved to read, and made sure I got the opportunity. There was a cache of National Geographic magazines in the classroom (censored, of course) published before, during, and after World War Two, and I learned more history poring over them than I learned in any other class. (Came up a little short in math, though.) More importantly, as it turned out, I also learned that a picture wasn't necessarily worth a thousand words.” 

    John Lutz is the author of more than forty novels and over two hundred short stories and articles. His novels and short fiction have been translated into almost every language and adapted for almost every medium. Read more about John Lutz. 

    Story #3 Boston Globe Reporter, Johnny Diaz. His Tenth Grade English Teacher and His First Employer 

    “I found my calling thanks to a few simple inspiring words from my tenth grade English teacher, Mrs. Comeau. “Johnny, you're a good writer,” she said. “Your sentences are simple and concise. Your writing has rhythm. Have you thought about joining the school newspaper?”

    I took Mrs. Comeau's advice to heart. I joined the school newspaper staff, curious to see where this all might lead. At first, I didn't know what I was doing. Through the challenges, I kept remembering what Mrs. Comeau had said. These words were gentle nudges to keep writing.

    A few months later, our school newspaper mentor, Patty Shillington, hired me as a high school intern for our big local daily newspaper, The Miami Herald. My photo ran with each column called “Friends and Neighbors,” which focused on unsung heroes in our community. Suddenly I found myself writing all the time, for the school newspaper and for the real world one. I was a writer, a journalist.

    If it hadn't been for Mrs. Comeau's encouragement and Patty's guidance at The Miami Herald in my early years, I wouldn't have explored my craft and found my calling. Twenty years later, I'm still writing new articles but I have expanded my craft by writing novels. And I teach journalism students whenever I can. In my lectures and when I grade their papers, I always encourage and hopefully inspire them to find their own voice. I also tell them what Mrs. Comeau told me so many years ago, “You're a good writer.” And that has been the best gift any teacher has given me. I want to keep passing it on.” 

    – Johnny Diaz is an active reporter for The Boston Globe and the accomplished author of Boston Boys Club and Beantown Cubans. Read more about Johnny Diaz.

     Story #4 Dalma Heyn, How Inspirational Experts in the Field of Psychology Taught Her

    “I was working on my first book when I had the good fortune to interview many of the world's foremost educators in the fields of psychiatry and psychoanalysisamong them, Dr. Martin Bergmann, Dr. Otto Kernberg, Dr. Ethel Personsome of whom had indicting interpretations of why women did what they did and what deep problems had to be fixed to make them ‘good’ women instead of bad ones. As I interviewed women themselves, I had an epiphany: all the scrutiny in the world would not be as enlightening as the simple, poignant feelings expressed by the women who exhibited the behavior being interpreted by the experts. In this odd fashion, the most brilliant teachers taught me not how to analyze, but rather, how to listen. It is, I think, what I do best, and what readers seem to value most in my books.”

    –Dalma Heyn is a New York Times bestselling author and psychotherapist who has worked for over twenty-five years to help women develop the best possible intimate relationships, while still flourishing as individuals. Read more about Dalma.

    Story #5 Mary Monroe. A Teacher Who is a Best Friend, Shelia Simms

    “I didn’t meet the teacher who had the biggest impact on my life until almost twenty years after I’d completed high school and moved from a small town in Ohio to Oakland, California. I met her at a literary event that I almost didn’t go to because I had a deadline to finish some edits on the manuscript for my first novel, The Upper Room.  In addition to being an elementary school teacher, she was also an aspiring author, an avid reader, and a world traveler.  That evening, she regaled me for hours with stories about her fourth-grade students and all of the fantastic places that she had visited. We became friends immediately. Over a lot of dinners and drinks, and during hour-long telephone conversations, she encouraged me to travel more and she gave me tips on how I could do that on my meager salary. Even though she has only published one short non-fiction piece so far, she does not get discouraged about her writing. As a matter of fact, she is the one who keeps me going when I get discouraged. She is always upbeat and looks for the good in everybody and everything. She is the kind of woman that I would like to be when I “grow up.” We’ve been best friends since the night I met her. Her name is Sheila Sims.”

    –Mary Monroe is the first and only member of her family to finish high school. She received great acclaim for her first novel, The Upper Room, and received the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award for her novel God Don’t Like Ugly. Read more about Mary Monroe.

    Please feel free to share your story in the comments below.

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    Vicki Davis

    Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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    Anonymous May 20, 2011 - 11:29 am

    Thankyou for writing this post Vicki. I suppose its a sign of what I’ve been through in my own teaching journey that your words “the greatest teachers have the greatest obstacles to overcome” actually moved me to tears. 

    This is the hope that keeps me going through the highs and lows of my teaching journey. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of this. 

    coolcatteacher May 20, 2011 - 4:37 pm

    Thank you for commenting. I actually cried as I wrote this post. Teaching is tough and it is nice to see another teacher who understands. No matter who you are and where you teach, our problems are so similar because I guess we humans are so similar. Thank you from the depth of my heart for the moving comment. Keep going! Keep the faith!

    Mary Lee May 20, 2011 - 5:56 pm

    I look forward to your blog everyday because you include the highs that we like to remember, and the lows that we may hate to admit.  I had a similar moment (well, longer) yesterday and spent quite a while thinking about it last night.   At the end of the year, when everyone’s tired, it is so hard to stop and listen to the whiny, angry ones, and even harder to remember that they probably need us to stop and listen the most.  It’s nice to be reminded that there are hard times, but there are more good times, and that we can be grateful for both.  The kids who are acting out want our attention. Have a great day today!

    Jennifer Lockett May 20, 2011 - 8:17 pm

     What a wonderful post and something we all need as a reminder time and time again. I keep a bunch of non-spoilers for lunch in my office (soups, Fresh Choice, etc). The last few weeks, someone has been taking it. I have my suspicions as well… Sadly, this behavior takes away from the 95% of other experiences I have with students that are overwhelmingly positive.

    Priscilla Stratton May 20, 2011 - 9:04 pm

     Thanks for sharing this event Vicki. This post hit home for me. I appreciate your candidness and as a teacher I definitely feel what you are experiencing. You’re right that we can’t always make all our students happy but we’re here for them anyway. Part of the game is putting on a bit of a face sometimes and I commend you for keeping level headed when your favorite tool went missing – I hope it turns up soon!! 

    coolcatteacher May 20, 2011 - 10:10 pm

    Thank you Mary! As I stand here at the lake on Dad’s farm and watch my son’s 3rd (almost fourth grade) class laugh, enjoy the party, skip rocks, and feed the catfish I am reminded of how many people I have taught that may have been c or even f students academically have gone on to live very good lives. It is so important to do what we can but most importantly to treat them all with respect. They may not remember a thing but those angry students will remember the time you took to listen! Teach on!

    Vicki Davis
    Cool Cat Teacher Blog

    Building the bridges of today that the society of tomorrow will walk across.

    Sent from my iPod touch

    Jo McLeay May 21, 2011 - 2:35 am

    Hi Vicki, I know that what you have said is true; a few weeks ago I got this message from an ex student –

    “I know it’s been ages and everything, but I was thinking before how
    horrible and annoying I was in high school and in your class, it was
    completely immature and selfish of me to of acted that way. I know
    this is no excuse there really is no excuse for being a rude, disruption
    when your trying to do your job and students are trying to learn, but I
    was going through a fair bit off stuff at that time. Yea so I
    realize this is really random but just wanted to say sorry, and that you
    were a really caring and dedicated teacher and students are lucky to
    have you.”

    High school students in Australia are from 12 to 18 and she was in the younger range when she was in my class 6 to 8 years ago. She was one of the most difficult students I had in my career. I can’t begin to tell you what it meant to me. You too may get this sort of message from the very student who is now plaguing you. Hang in there.
    Jo McLeay

    coolcatteacher May 21, 2011 - 6:33 pm

    Jo. Thank you for sharing this message. This is an example of two things. 1) The comments on a post often become greater than the post itself and 2) anything that a blogger may write is often given back 100 fold by beautiful people like you who give back encouragement! Thank you!

    coolcatteacher May 21, 2011 - 6:34 pm

    Me too, Priscilla. I haven’t given up that it will reappear.

    LS Shanks May 21, 2011 - 7:43 pm

    Thank you for this post and many others. You continue to inspire me to be a better person and teacher.  I have had 3 cell phones, a purse, a Wii, and many, many smaller items stolen from me over the last few years. I have learned to lock up everything valuable to reduce temptations.  But some things I will not lock up because we need to USE these things while we learn.  I think that there are lots of teachable moments as we discuss our process of letting go the anger at the thieves and offering forgiveness whether we get the “stuff” back or not.  I’m not saying it’s easy to get there emotionally, but I do it because I don’t want to have a poisoned heart full of bitterness.  Thanks again!

    pattaya girls May 21, 2011 - 4:49 pm

     maybe you have a thieving ghost

    Josh Wood May 22, 2011 - 9:31 pm

     Thanks for sharing such a great post with us, Vicki.  I keep an arsenal of “good times” artifacts in a binder behind my desk.  Letters from kids, Christmas cards, photos of teams I coached, photos of me acting like an idiot in countless assemblies…  I call it  my “real resume” and I flip through it on the days I feel less than successful on the job.

    At home I have two very special cards hanging on the wall.  They are from kids who learned things that had nothing to do with math.  Things about life and character.  Those are the things they learn from us on the days we’re not doing well.  Keep your chin up.

    . mrsdurff May 22, 2011 - 11:58 pm

    Remember that even if everything is taken away, you still have one precious gift no one can remove. He gave you that gift freely. I had to remind myself of that very thing when every possession and my health were taken from me. I’m still here, you will be too.

    Samuel May 23, 2011 - 6:23 am

     Great post Vicki. A reminder on how we should not let the bad things distract us and keep us from appreciating what really matters. Really like your blog!

    groupon clone script May 23, 2011 - 7:34 am

    I like you’re good feed back. Thanks share this good post.
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    Thanks coolcatteacher for the share it…..

    coolcatteacher May 23, 2011 - 10:12 am

    Thank you!

    coolcatteacher May 23, 2011 - 10:14 am

    Yes! Jesus Christ dying for my sins is the greatest gift anyone ever gave me. He is and remains my reason for being and inspiration. I’m grateful that in this situation, I have taken it to Him – when I say my students always tell me, it is usually because I take such injustices to God and “He handles it.” It would be hard for many to understand that because it seems surreal and imaginary, however, for those of us who believe and have that relationship we know the truth of what it means to walk through life with the greatest of Saviors.! Have a great day.

    coolcatteacher May 23, 2011 - 10:14 am

    That is great to keep those cards hanging on the wall. An inspiration wall! That is great!

    coolcatteacher May 23, 2011 - 10:17 am

    It is so rare that I have things stolen that this particular case has shocked me. But your story humbles me and helps me remember that my pens and markers aren’t such a big deal. Of course, it is a BIG DEAL everytime someone steals and gets away with it because they are learning it is OK. But we have to move on.

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