Dear Teacher, Thank You!

It’s Teacher Day in Ecuador.  I wrote a personal ‘thank you’ letter to one of my High School English teachers and sent it to him in honor of this day, a couple years late but better than never I hope!  I wrote another letter as well.  I wrote to you on behalf of your students.  You all deserve to receive a letter like this, perhaps you have or you will in the future but you deserve one today as well.

Thank you!

 

Good Afternoon,

I am writing to you today to say something that I, perhaps, have never said to you or any other teacher before…thank you!!  

You see, I know that I don’t usually show it and I rarely (if ever) actually say it, but I really appreciate all that you do for me and my classmates.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure if I see much of that now or really appreciate it in the moment.  However, I know 100% for sure that I will realize how much I appreciate you and your efforts some time in the future.  It may be when I finally ace that assessment, perhaps it’s in a few years when I’m in college looking back at my High School experience, or it could be in 20 years when I’m in my mid-30s and reflecting back on my life so far.  Whenever it is, I will realize it and I will appreciate all that you do (have done) for me.

I know that when I go home at night and do (or don’t do) my homework, you are putting in more time preparing to help me be successful.  I realize that teachers go home at night and grade papers, correct tests, write comments, and agonize over their students.  I know that when you lose your temper in class that it’s not because you don’t like me but rather because you care so much about me and my success that you’ve invested a lot of your time, effort, and emotions into me and my classmates.  Thank you for all that you do to make my success such a priority, it means a lot to me (or it will someday in the future!!)

Do you remember the other day, when I came to your class and you smiled and asked me about my weekend?  That was awesome, I had a great weekend and really wanted to tell someone about it.  I really enjoy connecting with my teachers, it helps me learn.  Someone shared a quote with me once about the relationship between teachers and students, “Students don’t care what a teacher knows until they know that their teacher cares.”  Well, I know that you care about me and that is why I am invested in your class…thank you for caring!  

We’ve got a holiday coming up and I don’t plan on thinking about school too much.  I hope you are able to do the same, take some time away and relax.  It’s hard work being a teacher, I can see that from all that you do for me.  I’ve heard the jokes about teachers and all the vacation time, they’re not funny.  I know that the time and effort you put in is just as much as anyone else in any other job, because you care about my success and want the best for me.  During this next holiday I hope that you spend time with your family, travel, read a book, or do anything else that helps you to relax and recharge.  We don’t have much longer in this school year and I know that together we will finish strong.

Thank you again and please remember that even if I don’t show it or say it now, I will certainly (some day) appreciate all that you do for me.  You’re an outstanding person and an even better teacher, I’m lucky to have you in my life!  

Thank you,

Your student

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Celebrating What we Value Most

It is often said, “we celebrate the things we value most.”  Well, I want to celebrate you…the teachers and leaders of our students.  

Long hours, endless frustrations, and countless sacrifices.  Fighting off colds, exhaustion, and 9 weeks of wear and tear.  Diagnosing, teaching, assessing, re-teaching, and re-assessing.  Teenagers, their parents, and all the hormones.

Success, the glimmer of hope, and the celebratory emails home.  The amazing lesson, the excitement of learning, and the joy in their eyes.  The growth, the pride, and the sense of achievement.  Smiles, laughs, hugs, and high-fives.

Students are both the greatest and the toughest part of this job.  They are the challenge and the reward all at once.  Yet, rarely, do they stop to say thank you and show their appreciation.  BUT…it’s there, I promise.  From the conversations I have in the halls and at lunch to the messages from parents.  Our students appreciate their teachers and this school.  The smiles and overall feeling of happiness that runs rampant throughout our school community is the most telling sign.  Our kids enjoy AC and they appreciate the work you do on their behalf.

What do teachers make anyway?

Well, if you haven’t seen this before you should see it now (I apologize for the occasional bad word)…and THANK YOU!!!!

What Teachers Make
by Taylor Mali

He says the problem with teachers is
What’s a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life
was to become a teacher?

He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true
what they say about teachers:
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.
I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the dinner guests
that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.
Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.

I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.
Be honest. What do you make?

And I wish he hadn’t done that— asked me to be honest—
because, you see, I have this policy about honesty and ass-­‐kicking:
if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.
You want to know what I make?
I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor
and an A-­‐ feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time
with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?
Because you’re bored.
And you don’t really have to go to the bathroom, do you?

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
Hi. This is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something your son said today.
To the biggest bully in the grade, he said,
“Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?
It’s no big deal.”
And that was noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write.
I make them read, read, read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math
and hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you’ve got this,
then you follow this,
and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this.

Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
Teachers make a goddamn difference! Now what about you?

Thank you Taylor Mali for his inspiration and permission to use his work to inspire!

Mali. Taylor. “What Teachers Make.” What Learning Leaves. Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN: 1-­‐887012-­‐17-­‐6)

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!!

All week we have been celebrating the outstanding teachers we have here at school and it has been a very positive atmosphere everywhere around campus.  It was great to see so many of you sitting outside enjoying your food and a little sunshine at lunch today.  There were smiles, laughter, and good feelings all around…a great way to finish off a terrific week 🙂

Right across from my office is a HUGE thank you note from all of the Middle School students to you for being so awesome.  The notes and messages on that big yellow paper are inspiring.  For all of those days that your students come and go without a word of thanks, it only seems to take that one bit of appreciation to strengthen the fire.  This week of celebration and thanks couldn’t have come at a better time.

As the weather begins to turn and we come off of such a great week, enjoy your weekend!  We’ve got two weeks left and then we are on Spring Break…before you know it we’ll be on China Trips and shortly after that we’ll watch our students leave us for the summer.  If there is one message I could give to our kids at this point in the year it would be to cherish these last few months with your friends and teachers.  For many of them, and us, there will be tears and hugs at the end of the year as they go in separate directions.  Enjoy your time with your students and colleagues, they’re all wonderful people (even that kid, you know, the one who you just thought about…the one who might drive you up the wall most days…even them, they’re pretty cool too when you stop to think about it!)

I’m a big sports person, I grew up playing all sorts of sports and enjoyed coaching even more…I LOVE sports!  One of the all-time greatest coaches (at least in basketball) was John Wooden.  He coached at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) where he helped them win 10 national championships in 12 years, including 7 in a row.  At one point his team won 88 straight games.  No doubt he had some of the best players in the nation BUT he was still renowned as one of the greatest teachers of the game ever.  Anyway, I want to leave you with a quote from Coach Wooden, he understood just how important all of you are to our students and the future.  He nailed it when he said:

“I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession.” – John Wooden

Thank you all for being so awesome for our students, no one can say it enough…you’re all incredible and you change the lives of our students every single day!!

Strengths Quest Professional Development

Happy American Thanksgiving everyone!  It would be remiss of me not to at least give a moment of thanks to each and every one of you for all that you do for our kids, “Thank you!”  Being the “communicator” that I am, I wanted to make sure I said that before I got off and rambling on something else…

The last couple days have been a wonderful opportunity for us to look a little deeper at ourselves and think about how we can use what is already within us to be better teachers.  Going through the Strengths Finder activities yesterday really helped me to begin thinking about how my strengths can be maximized to make me a better educator and leader.  Another aspect that was pointed out a few times are the dynamics of how different people and teams work together based on the combinations of strengths within the group.  Understanding the 34 different strength themes is a very important step toward building a strong collaborative environment.  Also, so is knowing each others strengths.  To that end, I’ve followed the example of a friend of mine from SAS (Singapore) and added my five strongest themes to my email signature.  In so doing, I’m hoping to inspire some of you to do the same.  Now that we all have this common context, it seems only logical that we use it to maximize the strengths of the whole team, not just ourselves!  Feel free to stop and modify your signature now 🙂

The work that we do together on a daily basis is far too important to do alone.  Looking around the stage yesterday and contemplating all of the different strengths we have as a collective group is astonishing.  The sheer wealth of knowledge and experience we had in that room could, combined, be strong enough to move mountains.  As a school we already do a very good job of collaborating and working together.  Deliberately focusing on our strengths will only lead to better things down the road!!  I’m a big sports fan and I love sports analogies despite the fact that so many of them sound cliché.  However, I’m going to use one…even the best players in the history of team sports couldn’t do it alone…Michael Jordan, Pele, Mia Hamm, Jerry Rice, or Wayne Gretzky wouldn’t have stood a chance without the help and support of their teammates.  Take a second and close your eyes, think about the stage on Thursday afternoon…there were a lot of amazing minds up there, feel free to engage with as many of those as possible!!

It’s very inspiring to sit along side all of you and think about how much collective intelligence is in the room, thank you!  It’s also inspiring to think about all the potential in the world…you futurists know what I’m talking about…so take a few minutes to play with this super cool toy from the BBC.  It’s a customizable look at how the Earth has changed since you were born and a fun way to think about all that has happened around you so far during your life.  I’m only 17 years old on Mars, my heart has beat 1 billion times already in my life, there have been 385 major earthquakes since I was born, and the average life expectancy in the world has increased 7.5 years (Earth years) in my life time…what about you?