Oh, dear friends and fellow educators — you are in the throes of January. A teacher at church admitted to me just this past Sunday that this time of the year she lies awake at night figuring out how to better teach this or that. Brrr. The tests are coming. Such things dominate the minds and can cloud the hearts of great teachers who believe (rightly so) that too much testing obscures what we're here to do.
Dear teacher, have hope. There are things to do and precious children to love on and teach. Some of them are struggling, and the last thing on their mind is a test in April or March or whenever. They don't care about those things because they are hurting. They need a kind word. They need someone to call them by name. They have strengths to discover, and that can't wait until June when testing is over. You might feel like you can't give hope to others. You need it too much yourself right now — but let me remind you of something, dear teacher: you are the hope.
Suzanne Collins, the author of the Hunger Games, has her character Katniss in the worst of situations — in an arena being forced to fight to the death. Survival is all these children think. Collins penned,
“You don't forget the face of the person who was your last hope.”
Some of these children are just fighting to survive. To these precious ones who need us most — you, my friends and teachers — you are someone's last hope. They need you to whisper words like those written by Shel Silverstein — the author/artist who penned books like Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree,
“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
Famed neurosurgeon, Ben Carson tells a story of how his fifth-grade teacher noticed that he knew everything about rocks. For some reason, Ben was fascinated by them. So, the teacher pointed it out to the class and asked Ben to stay after school. He encouraged Ben to start a rock collection and said he'd help. That whisper of “Anything can be” to the poor child of a single mom struggling to make it — made all the difference in Ben's life. Ben is now a neurosurgeon AND a best selling author.
[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@coolcatteacher”]In all things it is better to hope than despair. Goethe[/tweetthis]
So the days may be dark, and you may be awake at night thinking about the test. But when you're tempted to work yourself into a fury, let me remind you — think about THEM. Think about your students: what are their strengths? What are the things they do well?
Last night we were at the school meeting with seniors to get their YouScience results. This amazing assessment (that I highly recommend, by the way– do those words go together — LOL), gives students a 50-page report on their aptitudes and abilities. These students are tired and in the midst of term paper season, basketball season, dance recitals and everything else — they came out with their parents to learn about themselves. Some learned they had aptitudes for some things and their eyes opened. It was joyful to see parents say “this so nailed my child – this is just like him/her”. Why were they so excited about a test: because this assessment revealed their strengths and didn't focus on their weaknesses. (Disclosure: My students are a pilot school doing research for YouScience.)
So, you can't do anything about that blasted test you have to administer. And you do have to teach all of this stuff. But I'm begging you not to forget the STRENGTHS. I'm begging you not to forget the gifts in your classroom.
[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@coolcatteacher”]Learning can't start without a connection of the heart.[/tweetthis]
Learning can't start without a connection of the heart. Hope without action is fantasy. Dreams become reality through hope accompanied by a consistent daily habit of moving towards your dream. You have a dream – at least I hope you do – of reaching each of these children and helping them be their best. Don't make excuses – make possibilities.
The author of the Little Prince and famed French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said
[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@coolcatteacher”]What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well. Antoine de Saint-Exupery[/tweetthis]
You've got darkness and hate causing these little precious children to struggle. It is not their fault. It is, however, our fault if we let a test blot out all remembrance of what we are here to do. We cannot let our objectives make us lose sight of our primary objectives.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” penned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There are many who will tell you that you don't have time to love… you've got to test.
There will be others who will frown and say you have to teach and cannot find a child's strength… you've got the test.
I'll tell you that you can't have teaching without love and trying to find a child's strengths. For within every great teacher I've ever known is the deep-seated desire to build a better future by educating the minds of today's students.
Every great teacher I've ever known taught me an incredible volume while also teaching me how to live life. I'll quote a few lines from Edgar Guest's great poem “It Couldn't Be Done” to those people who say we can't teach and test:
Somebody said that it couldn't be done,
But he with a chuckle replied
That ‘maybe it couldn't' but he would be one
Who wouldn't say so till he'd tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn't be done and He did it.
Here's to all of you hope givers. Here's to all of you exceptional people doing every day what others say can't be done. Here's to you, teacher, hope giver, hero of the next generation. Let's don't let the cold days of January and the hot tests of tomorrow dampen our passion for what we must be doing today.
Teach on, noble teacher, have hope. You can do this.
Tips for minimizing teacher stress
- Discover 10 stress-busting secrets for healthy teachers. What simple routines will help you handle the stress?
- Simple advice for coping with stress at work.
- Learn tips to help you deal with difficult colleagues and students (even those who "hate" you -- yes it is possible!)