This past week was a tough one...very stressful with schedule changes, antsy kids, other school happenings, pooping dog, and so on. It was one of those weeks where I look at my husband (the band teacher) and wish I would have as much talent to become a band teacher - no papers to grade, no ISTEP to worry about, and excellent student motivation (they WANT to do music). Sometimes I'm jealous of him because I feel he truly gets to teach each day without worrying about all the things that make regular classroom teachers (including myself) go bonkers.
That being said, I'm looking forward to the Thanksgiving vacation. I like 4+ day vacations because they give you a chance to recharge your "batteries". The rest and relaxation is nice, but I also like to pick up something school related that I know will help me motivate myself...something to show me that as bad as I may think things are, that I really do love what I do and to get me pumped to walk in on Monday with something new to try.
A few years ago, my husband's school corporation did a book study with the book "What Great Teachers Do Differently - 14 Things That Matter Most" by Todd Whitaker. He finished the book and told me to read it because it was "my kind of book"...whatever that means. I like to reread this book when I'm feeling stressed. It motivates me to do better. If you Google the book, you'll find mixed reviews. It's an easy read with a good message. Some people (like myself) see this book as a "pick me up" and inspiration to be better each day. Some people see the book as a pair of rose-colored glasses and an impossible dream in the days of standarized testing and RTI. However you see it, Mr. Whitaker's ideas are simple - it's not the expensive programs or the cool, fun lesson plan from the Internet. The key to student success is the high expectations a teacher sets for him or herself. The book gives 14 ideas to inspire you to do better by setting higher expectations for yourself in addition to your students.
I won't spoil the book for you in case you want to pick it up for a read on your drive this weekend, but I will leave you with some of my favorite pieces of advice from Mr. Whitaker.
~When asked by a school to help improve reading scores - "Are you so interested in improving your students' reading abilities that you are willing to change what you do in your classroom - or do you want to raise their test scores so that you don't have to change what you do in your classroom?" (page 112)
~"Each of us can think of many innovations that were touted as the answer in education. Too often, we expect them to solve all of our woes. When they do not, we see them as the problem. However, we must keep in mind that programs are never the solution, and they are never the problem. (page 10)
~ "Great teachers have high expectations for their students, but even higher expectations for themselves." (There is much more with this quote...I suggest you finish reading on page 34.)
~"Just do what is right, no matter what others do around you. That is what great teachers do. They do what is right no matter what else is going on." (page 120)
Valuable advice or an impossible dream? Read it for yourself and decide! Happy Turkey Day!