My #OneWord for 2022…Believe

“I believe in hope. I believe in Believe.”- Ted Lasso

Wow! Can’t believe that it is already 2022. These past couple of years have seemed like they have lasted forever while at the same time it feels like it was just yesterday that it was March 12, 2020…the day when we went into remote learning and our lives drastically changed. I have learned so much about myself, society, and education ever since that day, and I believe I have grown for the better because of it.

This year I have chosen the word “Believe” for my #OneWord for 2022. I have so much to believe in for myself, my family, my students, and the world. Our society is an amazing thing. My students are some of the best you can ever have. My family is so supportive and caring. Myself…that is where I need to believe more.

The past couple of years I have had several challenges that have caused me to lower the way I think about myself. I felt that I had opportunities that were positively suited for me and I was overlooked. I felt that I wasn’t good enough. I felt that my time will never come along. Taking these lessons and making the most of them is challenging, but necessary.

After these challenges, I came across a television show that I never expected to help me in so many ways. This show is about a coach that is given an opportunity that he may not look the most suited for but takes every opportunity to make it the best and guide those around him to success. I found this show to be something that actually is quite inspirational. This show is Ted Lasso.

One line from the show that I have found to be helpful is the following: “You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? It’s got a 10-second memory.” I need to be a goldfish. I need to briefly remember these challenging moments but then move on to find the good in the other opportunities around me. I need to believe in myself and realize that when things do not go the way that I want them to that I need to move forward and use that 10-second memory and find excitement in the next challenge.

But why the word “Believe”? Believe is a verb that means to accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth of. I need to do! I need to believe that I am able to achieve the next level! Simply, I need to believe in myself more. This word also comes from Ted Lasso. He places a sign up in the locker room that says believe to remind his players to believe that they can succeed. I have done the same in my classroom.

I believe that with the support of my family that I will be able to be the best me that I am able to be. I know that I have a long way to go to becoming my best, but I believe that I am on the right path. I am so thankful for my family, especially my wife, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them. I believe they are my strength and I will challenge myself to believe in myself more.

My students are so great! I believe that they will become some of the finest future leaders of our society. Their intentions, their compassion, and their resilience gives me hope for our future. My current class and my previous classes are all filled with these characteristics and this inspires me to continue to become better. They are a huge inspiration to me and I believe in each and every single student that I encounter.

Our society and nation is one I still believe in. I believe that we can unite and overcome the challenges facing our nation. I believe we need an understanding of what makes each one of us unique and how that makes us a great nation. I believe this is possible with a little bit of care for one another. I still believe that we will come through this pandemic with a greater sense of care and love for our neighbors.

I don’t want to say the whole cliché of “New Year, New Me” or “This is my year!”, but I will say this, each day I will continue to believe in myself and I will work my hardest to be better than I was yesterday. I believe that with each day I will begin to become more successful and hopefully achieve my career goals. I also believe that everyone around me will help me become even better. I know that I cannot make it through this journey alone. I believe that every person I encounter has a purpose for being in my life. I need to learn from them and make this year one that will push me forward.

I do not know what this year has in store for me. I do believe that I am where I need to be. I may not be where I want to be, but I am where I need to be. I believe that I will be even better than I was last year, and wherever the road leads me, I believe it is the right thing for me!

What Makes a Teacher?

As I reflect on this past weekend, I begin to fully understand the meaning of the word teacher. A teacher isn’t defined by a degree but rather by the actions and methods used to further a person’s knowledge on a topic. A person doesn’t need a degree but rather a passion for what they love.

My Uncle Sean was a teacher in my life. He did not have a degree in education, but rather his passion and joy of music, theatre, and life is the tool that allowed him to be a teacher.

If you know me, you probably know the music that I listen to. If you didn’t know me, you would probably never guess the style of music that I listen to. I enjoy listening to alternative, Ska, Irish rock, classic Oldies, showtunes, and many others. How did I come into most of this music? Well, simply because my Uncle Sean taught me to appreciate and value all different kinds of music!

One of my favorite stories about my uncle was when we were at a Barenaked Ladies concert at Blossom Music Center. We were sitting in the pavilion and the crowd was around 18,000-19,000. Now, my uncle was an on-air radio personality and music director for a couple of radio stations in Cleveland. My uncle would pick and choose what songs were to be played. My uncle was the first person to play Barenaked Ladies on the Cleveland airwaves and quite possibly in the United States. When we were standing there at the show, he looked at me and said “None of these people would be here if it wasn’t for me.” I was like, “Wow…you can actually say that because you started playing them!” That showed me that you can take risks and attempt to be the first to do something and who knows what success you might have!

Another way Uncle Sean taught me was through enjoying life. Some may think of me as a quiet individual while others may see me as quite outgoing. Well, I get that from my uncle. There were many times when I would be at his work and karaoke was going on. Well, I do enjoy singing (I’m not that good at it) but I don’t necessarily have the confidence to go do it. If I needed support, my Uncle Sean would get up and sing with me. We’d sing “Mack the Knife” or “Birdhouse in Your Soul”. That was the support I needed to get up and perform in front of others. He taught me to enjoy the moment and get up and share what you want, even if you think you are not that good at it!

My Uncle Sean also taught me a lot about the city of Cleveland. You may be wondering how he did this…well, I will tell you. My uncle worked for a promotions company. One of his jobs was to deliver products for promotions to different locations around the city of Cleveland. Well, since I was typically free during the week and in the summer, Sean asked me to assist him by driving around with him. We would usually start off our days by grabbing a bite to eat somewhere (always great learning about new restaurants in the area) and then going to the storage unit to pick up the products. We would then drive around the city of Cleveland and surrounding areas dropping off materials. We would travel to the far east side, through downtown, and then over to the far west side. I had great conversations and learned about the amazing city we live in because of the invaluable time I had on our journeys. We developed so many inside jokes from these times “The cups are in the van.” “You know what I always say??” “If I had a nickel for every time I said that.” Having a great relationship was when learning was happening.

These are just a few of the ways that Uncle Sean taught me about life. I’m sure I could keep going, but I just want you to reflect more on the people in your life that do not have a degree in education but are the teachers in your life. My Uncle Sean sure is a teacher.

My #OneWord2021…Me

Each year I choose one word to focus on. This year I have chosen the word “me”. Yes, this may seem very self-centered or conceited, but in a deeper way, it truly isn’t either of those. Choosing the word “me” will allow me to be an even stronger person in the long run.

Me: used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself as the object of a verb or preposition. That is how the word “me” is defined in the dictionary, but it means more than that. It means the physical presence that I bring. It means my focus on what I do and say. It means how I see myself.

So why the word “me”? 2020 was a year that I would never say was a bad year. I would definitely say it was a challenging year, but it was a year that allowed me to grow in my passion for my work as an educator. At the same time though, I lost my focus on other areas of my life that I needed to remain focused on. So now I need to find ways to bring my focus back to where it needs to be.

Focusing on “me” will allow me to grow even more as an educator, but in a way that finds a balance between my work and personal life. If I can focus on “me” I will become better in the different areas of my life. I will also learn to focus on care for myself in different ways. I want to be more physically active so that I can get into better shape. This focus on “me” will allow me to be more energized and ready to spend more time enjoying nature and life outside of work.

I also want to focus on being more reflective. I want to think about what I want to accomplish each day and reflecting upon how my actions and words allowed me to accomplish the objectives of the day. By creating daily goals and reflecting upon achieving those goals, the larger goals that I want to accomplish will become more defined and broken down into smaller goals and not as overwhelming.

I also want “me” to challenge myself to show my leadership skills. I want to be able to find new ways for “me” to identify areas in my career that I can improve but I also want to find areas of my personal life that I can improve.

My focus on the word “me” is not selfish. Focusing on “me” will allow me to become a stronger person. It will allow me to be a better person. It will allow me to become the person that I know I can be.

So as we move forward in our lives, let us all take this year to focus on “me”. Now I don’t mean everyone look at me, but rather focus on the “me” in your life. We have to slow down and remember that when we are at our best, whether that is emotionally, physically, or socially, we can be our best for others. I need to become the best for myself so that I can be the best for everyone in my life.

So as I move forward in 2021 focusing on “me”, I want you all to support me. I want you to let me know how I can be better. This year is bout “me” becoming better for you!

Thankful…So Many Reasons Why I Am!

This school year has truly been unique! The uncertainty about how we would open…how students would respond to the new protocols…how families would support the decisions and protocols…and so many more! Even with all these concerns, worries, and uncertainties, one thing that I had to continuously remind myself is this…I need to be thankful for the opportunity that I have been given.

From what you hear on the news and everything, you would think that there isn’t anything to be thankful for in our world. Pandemic…rioting…racial tension…political divides…natural disasters…and toilet paper shortages. The list can go on and on. Yet, why don’t we just stop and reflect upon thinking about what this year has made us more aware of what we should be thankful for.

First of all, I am thankful for my family. My family has been an amazing support for me, especially my wife. She has been a true blessing for me and I know that I need to show my true appreciation for her even more! She has been there for me during my lowest and hardest times of this crazy year and I know there is no way I can ever repay her for what she has done for me. My parents, sister, and extended family have also been a true blessing for me. I have found a deeper gratitude for what they have done for me and I appreciate those moments that I have with them even more now than ever.

Secondly, I am thankful for my faith. This year has been truly hard in the sense of my faith. Not being able to attend mass in-person because of the pandemic has been challenging. I enjoy going to Mass and celebrating in the joy of the Eucharist. Yes, I know that Mass is again open, yet the comfort level for attending is still not that high so we haven’t gone yet. Why am I thankful though? I am thankful because I know that when I do attend in-person again, I will feel the amazing presence of Christ in the Eucharist more than ever before.

Thirdly, I am thankful for my colleagues. I have had many amazing colleagues from every school I have worked. Each one has guided me on my path of education by supporting me or by showing me effective and innovative ways to reach my students. I am so fortunate to have been surrounded by educators that see past curriculum and grades to recognize that students will truly want to learn only when they know that teachers care and support them. Many of my colleagues take that idea and place it first in their teaching. I am so thankful that I have seen so many educators strive to do the best for their students.

Fourth, I am thankful for my fellow educators that push me to be even better. These are not educators that I have worked with, but rather the educators that I have grown to know through Twitter and other professional learning networks (PLN). One PLN that has been an amazing resource for me has been the Teach Better Family. While having educators that I work with support me is wonderful, it is also important to have a group of educators from outside your building and area to throw ideas off of and to share with. This year has been so much easier for me because of the support of my fellow educators on Twitter. Because of my PLN, I was able to be on my first podcast and have been invited to do more. So thankful of the work that they do to make me better.

Fifth, I am so thankful for the community of school, Communion of Saints. The parents and community have been so wonderful to me during my first year there and even through the start of this year. From the birthday surprise last year, through the game nights of the pandemic, and through the support of educating their children, the parents and community have the best interests of the students in mind and I couldn’t be happier with where I am.

Sixth, I am thankful for the reason that I am an educator…the students! Each student has made me a better educator and I know I wouldn’t be where I am without them. This year I am thankful for the work that they are doing to keep each other safe. The extra protocols and safety measures that the school has implemented have been challenging, but the students have done a remarkable job in doing what is needed to stay safe. My class this year has been amazingly supportive of me and the other students. I feel that this group has been a close family and they want to see each other be the best they can be. Students have made me want to be better. They have made me want to challenge myself to do everything I can to make their learning experience the best it can be. I am so thankful for them.

Throughout all the struggles, challenges, and difficulties of this year, one thing that I have found to remain constant is that there is so much to be thankful for. If we constantly consume ourselves with the negativity, disruptions, and hardships that this year has given us, we will lose focus on the great things that make us who we are. Our family, support network, and the reason that we do what we do.

Let us change our focus to appreciate the moments, experiences, and reasons that make us happy. Don’t forget the great things. Be thankful for those around you and do whatever you can to make them better each and every day!

Back to School!

5th Graders engaging in an educational activity!

Well, I’ve been back in the classroom for nearly 3 weeks now. Are things looking a bit different this year than last year? Absolutely! Are there some feelings of anxiety? Of course! Are there moments of uncertainty? Obviously! Am I glad to be back? You know it!

This school year has started off unlike any other school year. Daily temperature checks for myself and my students. Getting used to extra technology in my classroom that I have never worked with before. Measuring the distance between desks. Just so many unique experiences, but do you know what is still present in my school and in me? Dedication to serving and educating these amazing students!

My school started the year teaching in-person and remotely. It’s challenging! Engaging students who are at home while also engaging students in-person creates obstacles, yet also opportunities. This is the year for teachers to push themselves to try new things. This is the year to take risk with students and rise up to overcome the obstacles. If there was ever a time to let teachers leeway in there lessons, this is it! Let us find new ways to connect with our students in a way that promotes growth through new opportunities.

As a teacher, I want to see my students be better today than they were yesterday, and better tomorrow than they are today. Will students always achieve that? No, but I can help them move forward and build the “want” to be better. Students will falter, but they need to understand the why and build upon that to become better.

Each day starts off with seeing students walk up the stairs and down the hallway. They are greeted with a thermometer to check their temperature. I can’t tell if they are smiling or not behind the mask that they are wearing, but all I can do is provide them with a positive good morning greeting and welcome them back into the classroom. Not being able to see the smiles is a struggle for me. I find that the energy my students bring to the classroom energizes me, but this year is different. I am the one that needs to bring the energy. I am the one that needs to deliver the extra morning boost…and let me tell you this…it’s exhausting!

I am feeling more tired this year than I have in the previous starts of school years that I have encountered. Perhaps this is from the extended absence from the classroom than I am used to, or perhaps it’s because there are so many extra responsibilities that I have to do each day to make sure the classroom is ready for students. Each day I need to make sure the desks have been cleaned, that the desk shields are ready for use, that the desks are still distanced, that the camera and other technology are still working correctly, that I have taken my own temperature and recorded the information properly…all of this along with the regular activities of planning and teaching, ensuring that the student work is available for both in-person students and remote learners, taking the boys in my classes to the restroom and walking up stairs at least 6 times a day, and responding to emails and contacting parents. It very well could be a combination of both, but whatever it is, I do get exhausted throughout the day. I know that this will eventually be decreased, but right now, it is a challenge.

Yet, being back in the classroom is exciting. Yes, I can’t see the smiles and I am getting quite tired each day, but those things are lessened because I’m back where I feel like I belong…the classroom! This environment brings me hope, joy, and strength. I see teachers rising up and using new technology. Sure…the technology may not always work as we want it to, but we still make learning happen. Teachers are working to educate students wherever they are! They are working to make students feel accepted, loved, and cared for by their school community. This is where my hope, joy, and strength come from! There is one greater source of all these for me…and that source is the students.

I have heard educators say that there is no way students will be able to comply with all the new rules and regulations that schools are going to implement in regards to safety measures. Students wearing masks all day? Nope…can’t happen! Students walking down the hallway properly? Good luck with that! Students physically distancing from one another? They’re kids and they won’t do it! Well, students CAN do it and students ARE doing it! You know how you make that happen? You show that you believe in them! You show them that you care for them! Is everything perfect everyday? No, it’s not, but nobody is perfect. Are the students exceeding expectations? They have met the expectations and they are exceeding them! They’re doing it because we have created an environment where they feel supported, loved, and cared for…and we KNOW they can make it happen!Once students feel that, they can achieve anything!

There are so many great sources of support that I have had in preparation for this school year. My amazing wife has been there for me throughout all this! She knows the anxiety that I have faced and has eased my mind so much. My family that has made me feel confident about the preparations that my school has done to welcome students back! My Teach Better PLN and my fellow Teach Better Ambassadors. Having a group of educators there to talk about ideas and support has been amazing. Finally, my PLN of educators on Twitter.

This school year is going to be an amazing learning year! Students are going to continue to build up the feeling of care, love, and support for not only themselves but for each other. I am going to do my best to ensure that each student has a voice within the classroom. I am going to work to support these students through all of these obstacles. While desk shields and masks are seen as barriers between the students and I, these are going to be barriers that I will work to break down…not physically, but educationally, emotionally, and socially. Student safety is my first priority, but the social and emotional well being of each student is right up there. I am going to make sure that being back to school is the greatest educational experience that they have had!

Masks…More Than Material

The debate lately has been whether or not we should be wearing masks. Should we or shouldn’t we? Well, I’m not here to debate that, but rather to reflect on a post from one of my professional learning networks, the Punk Rock Classroom. They discussed the idea of masks, but more the masks that we wear everyday, even before the pandemic. Let me explain…

When I enter into a classroom full of students, I’m encountering different personalities, different levels of knowledge, different interests…in other words, I’m meeting students that are each unique. With these unique personalities also comes the reality that some students are struggling to realize and discover who they truly are. I have to see what “masks” my students are wearing.

Masks are a reality in the lives of students. Students wear masks for several different reasons. Here are a few:

  1. To feel accepted
  2. To distance themselves from others
  3. To make others believe that they know the content
  4. To make others believe that they don’t know the content
  5. To conceal fears that they have from being away from family
  6. To conceal issues that they might be facing at home
  7. To show off the talents they have
  8. To conceal the talents that they may feel be embarrassed to show

These are just a few of the masks that students wear each and every day. It is a reality that masks are worn, but they don’t always have to wear them. They have to have an environment to feel safe to show who they truly are. I need to develop and nurture that environment. Yet, that also means that I have to avoid wearing masks each day. I need to come in to the classroom each day and show my passion and joy for teaching, but I also need to be mindful that I will not be at my best each and every day. Those days will challenge me to be real and let students know that it’s okay to not be your best each day. I need to model the mentality that being “unmasked” is okay and that we will grow and learn from these moments.

I’ve had many encounters with students wearing masks and I personally find these moments as some of the most enlightening moments that I have had as an educator. I have taken these moments to connect to students and let them understand that I will support them through their unmasking period. Students need to have support from not only me, but from their classmates as well. The classroom needs to be filled with empathy and compassion. Students need to feel comfortable to share their passions, stories, and moments of growth. There has to be an acceptance of the phrases of “I don’t know….yet”…”I need help”…”I’m excited to show my classmates what I can do”…”Would you like to eat lunch with us?”.

As I stated, the current mask debate is a struggle that schools will be facing for this upcoming school year, but we need to look at the masks that students have been wearing for years. Schools need to embrace these masks and find ways to have students want to unmask themselves to accept who they are. Teachers need to strengthen their relationships with students and ensure their students that they will be supported by all. Schools need to provide the environment that will embrace each and every student and their unique offerings to the school community.

Students will wear masks and it’s my responsibility to ensure that they are accepted and supported when they want to take them off.

Year In Review

In June of 2019, I was searching for something new. I started looking for a new teaching position, especially one at the 5th grade level. I was looking at the Diocese of Cleveland website for teaching positions and I saw a position for a 5th grade homeroom position at Communion of Saints School. Well, I figured I had nothing to lose and everything to gain! I submitted my resume and all that fun stuff and within an hour I had a phone call from the school secretary asking me to come in for an interview. Well, that’s where the fun begins! I was leaving for a vacation soon after I received that phone call, so we quickly organized the interview and I started to prepare!

The interview day came along and little did I know that it was also Field Day for the school. So I walk through a group of students engaged in so many awesome activities! I’m wearing a blazer and dress pants and everyone else is wearing shorts and t-shirts! I’ll never forget walking through the parking lot seeing all the great students interacting so positively together…and from that point on I knew that this was going to be a special place!

The interview went great and I knew right after that it was going to happen! I went on vacation much more relaxed knowing that my future was taken care of, but I was also a bit nervous starting at a new school!

In early August I was able to get into my classroom for the first time…Room 210! The great thing about the room number is that it is the same room number that I was in at my last school! Room 210!

As I was setting up my classroom, one thing kept sticking in my mind….”How am I going to deal with 28 students?” My room is a similar size to my last school and I had 18 students! Where are 10 more students going to fit? I tried to be creative but there was one thing that I was soon going to discover…my students are so great that it didn’t matter where I had them sit, they were going to get along with everyone they were by!

I start each school year off using Play-Doh and have students create something out of it to explain who they are. When I saw the creations of my students, I knew that this class was going to be something special. They were so creative with what they made; they shared Play-Doh to allow students to add extra elements to their creations; and when they shared what they made, they did it with so much passion.

As the school year continued, this class continued to grow as a family. They learned together. They supported each other. Best of all, they cared for each other. Each student found their “group” yet everyone was apart of the larger.

One amazing thing I found this year is actually how easy it is to get to know each student individually. I had 28 students…20 girls and 8 boys! When I first heard that, I was very overwhelmed! 20 girls?? 20 girls is more in one class than I had total students in one class! I do recall telling the boys that they would always win a disagreement because I’m one of them! Yet, I never had to do that since they all got along so great!

The school year continued…and my excitement for everything kept increasing! I knew something about each student that just made them unique. Some examples are pickles, math, memes, jokes, stories, FRIENDS, Annie, Nugget, “Well, what had happened was…”, Rubik’s Cubes, a horse on the ground, and so many more! These are the memories that I will hold with me forever!

Now, here comes the hardest part of this past year…Thursday, March 12th, 2020. This was an early dismissal day, so students were to be dismissed at 1:30pm. At 12:45 teachers were informed to have students start to pack up their materials just in case schools were closed due to the pandemic. I told my students to do just that. There was confusion. There was uncertainty. We didn’t know anything except that the coronavirus was just beginning to be present in Ohio and that the possibility of closing was there. I knew that we were probably going to close, but I didn’t expect it so soon. There was no school for students on Friday, March 13, so I told students as they left on Thursday that”I’ll see you Monday!” Monday never happened…

Soon after we left school, it was announced that all K-12 schools in Ohio were going to close. This became a time to scramble and figure out the next step in the school year. Here is one thing I have to tell you that some of you may not understand…March, April, and May are the best months to be a teacher! Kids are fully understanding who they are and students are in their zone! It is a great period of growth in so many areas…academic, social, spiritual, and emotional! Yet, it was ripped away from me, my students, our class! I was hurting.

One advantage that I had was that my class was already using Google Classroom. They knew the system because we jumped into it early in the school year. Students were eager to learn Google Classroom and I was able to work seamlessly with my partner teacher to implement Google Classroom for all of our students! In addition to Google Classroom, my partner teacher and I were always on the same page, so it made for an amazing year working with her! Back to the Google Classroom…when the school year had to be quickly changed over to distance learning the students were easily able to adapt to the change. This says so much about my students! They were able to see learning happening everywhere they were. I don’t mean this as technology was available everywhere so they were learning, but that they are able to see how the environment around them is their “classroom”. So proud of these students!

As we moved forward with distance learning, the students progressed through by creating routines. We had our weekly class meetings with a strong attendance rate! We shared stories of the events of the week, caught kids up on the lessons they will have, and was just present for them…and they were there for me! While this continued, I felt like it wasn’t enough. One thing I found so great about this class wasn’t how close they were as a group (which they were!) but rather how close the families were! At school events, at sporting events, in the stories they shared, it was always involving the families being together. A true community! I needed to find a way to keep that connection! So I created a long distance game night!

Our Game Nights consisted of playing Kahoot! through Zoom! Families competed against each other, challenged each other….but more importantly, kept the connection that they had before distancing! We would have these Game Nights every Thursday. When we got towards the end of the school year I would ask each week, “Is this the final one, or do you want to have one next week?” The answer would always be, “Let’s play again next week!” Little did I know that we would go 7 straight weeks of playing Kahoot! and I couldn’t have been happier doing this for my families!

As the school year wrapped up, I felt so bad saying “See you Monday!” and then never seeing my students again for the rest of the school year. I knew that it wasn’t right…and I needed to make up for it! So I decided that I wanted to visit each student in someway so I contacted parents and informed them that I would be coming to each house to drop off a small gift for each student. On Wednesday, May 27, I was able to visit 25 of my 28 students. Laughs were had…and even some tears were shed during my visits. It was a bit of closure…but it’s still not the same as being in the classroom with them. It was such a powerful experience though.

Now that the classroom is closed up and we are in “summer break”, I can safely say that this has been the most unique school year I have ever encountered. I don’t like to say that this was my best school or class ever because each group has made me better in some way, but I do know that this group has surely taught me the most about myself and has pushed me to be even better than I was before. They challenged me socially, emotionally, and spiritually….but all positively! I just hope that I left half as much impact on them that they have left on me. I am going to miss this class, but I am going to support them all the way through 6th grade and beyond that!

My special message to this class is this…”Take your rose with you everywhere you go; take care of it, nurture it, and watch it grow. It is your rose, and only yours! Make it the best rose ever!” I’m so proud of you!

Parents…Just WOW!

Over the past 8 weeks, the World, and especially the education world, has been drastically transformed. We have seen so much shut down. We have seen schools just shuttered and students being directed to learn from home. Teachers were told within minutes that students would no longer be teaching in front of a classroom but rather you will have to teach in front of a computer screen.

These are not the “normals” that we educators are used to. This is not the reality that we expected. Yet, we did not stop and we did not just give in. We developed a system that we feel best fit our students and our community. We wanted to make sure that our students continued to receive an education that they well deserve. Is it the ideal way that I would like to teach? No, it’s not…but it is the way that I will continue to teach as long as I have students that want to learn!

While educators have made great changes in our teaching styles and routines, we need to look at another major driving force that has made this change possible…the parents. Parents are in a new way of living. They have been asked to jump into a world that they never expected to be a part of. They have changed their homes, rooms, and way of living to the education of their child. For this, educators need to be truly grateful.

I’ve said this since I started teaching…parents need to be our allies in education! We need to provide parents with the most amount of resources possible to make our education of their child to be the most effective. We need to provide clear communication with families. We need them to work with us and we need to work with them.

These past 8 weeks have exemplified this point to the max! Where would we be without the parents? How effective would this system be if the parents weren’t there to support the educators? I keep reading that hopefully there will be a greater appreciation for educators after all of this, but I want to look at it the other way as well. Hopefully there’s a greater appreciation for the parents of our students as well.

Hopefully, once everything returns to “normal” in the education world, we will see a greater partnership in education among parents and educators. We need each other. We need to continue to do what is best for the students, but educators can’t do it alone. We need parents to be right beside us. We need to walk through the education world as a team to support the future of world. We need to see that our work is a joint effort rather than a one-sided process.

As we continue this school year and begin to prepare for next school year, we need to work together to design a process that covers all supports for education. Schools need to work with families as they are, and always will be, the primary educators of students. It is for this reason that I have to say “Wow!” to all of the parents.

Parents…we need you! We need your support! We are so grateful for your support! You are making this happen! Don’t ever forget that teachers are here to support you in anyway that we can! This year you have been given a great challenge that you have stepped up to and made work. Is it the smoothest system? No, but it will improve. We will work together to make this the best system possible. But, again, WOW! for everything that you are doing!

Parents, don’t give up! Don’t give in! Keep pushing forward and know that we will get through these next few weeks together! Just remember that this educator can only say “WOW!” for everything that you are doing! Thank you!

Hope…It’s There If You Just Look

Today I visited a place that I never heard about until a few days ago. My wife told me about this place called Daffodil Hill. Now, I’ve lived in my area of northeast Ohio for 39 years and I have never heard of Daffodil Hill. Then, I saw posts about the families of my students visiting Daffodil Hill. The most interesting thing about Daffodil Hill is its location. You can find Daffodil Hill in a cemetery…Lakeview Cemetery to be exact. If you’ve never heard of Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio, I highly suggest looking it up. It’s an absolutely stunning place, but back to this point of this post.

Living in an area and learning about Daffodil Hill was such a great distraction from everything going on. Daffodil Hill provided me something that I haven’t had much of lately…and that’s hope. After losing out on a month (and counting) of being with my students, hope was diminishing. Missing out on family events and not spending time with them in person for over a month (and counting), hope was diminishing. Yet, spending a few minutes at a place I never knew about until a few days ago, in an unlikely place, brought hope back!

It provided me peace, beauty, positivity, and comfort in a time when there’s so much negativity, despair, and hardships going on around us. In a few minutes I realized that there is so much beauty surrounding us if we just get past the mindset that all is going wrong. We need to look at the positives in our world. We need to see what is in our own backyard (literally and figuratively) and find out how it can change how we see what’s going on around us. I never thought that there was a hill full of daffodils in bloom in my area, yet there is! If we just take the time to discover what’s near us will we finally be able to change the greater world.

I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity to see Daffodil Hill. Ever since I was told about it from my wife, I then began to see Facebook posts and pictures about this place. Perhaps for years my eyes were blind to the stories because I was never looking for the comfort and peace since life was just moving so fast around me. Maybe I never cared to look for it because I wasn’t focused on the little things in life and how they can provide me comfort and peace. Maybe I just needed this time to slow down and realize that there is such beauty around me.

Daffodil Hill was a much needed escape for me. Thank you to everyone who brought it to my attention, especially to my wife for going with me. I need to open my eyes more to the beauty of what’s around me…and that could be in nature or in others. We all have such beauty within us that can provide hope to others. We need to slow ourselves down to let us reach others and for others to reach us. We need to slow ourselves down to see the beauty in nature that surrounds us. Hope for me was found in a hill of daffodils. Now, I just want to be hope for others…especially for my students!

Daffodils 2Daffodils 1

Holy Week Separation

As we all know, this Holy Week is unlike any other that we have ever encountered, yet it isn’t the first time that it has ever happened. We need to look back at Holy Week…the first one.

The Apostles were the closest followers of Christ. They turned to him for guidance, support, nurturing, and for learning. They knew Jesus better than everyone except Mary. They trusted him. They cared for him. They needed him. With all of these positive feelings about him, it’s surprising how they reacted after Holy Thursday. They were scared and lost.

How are we feeling today? We’re scared. We’re lost. We’re separated from the ones that we care so much about. We don’t know what to do. We seek out ways to stay in touch. We need each other.

We are feeling the same way that the Apostles felt soon after the arrest of Jesus. They went into isolation. They couldn’t directly communicate with those around them.

Social distancing has made this Holy Week just like the first Holy Week. We are separated from Jesus in the Eucharist, but we are not separated from his love.

Holy Week has always been a great joy for me to teach. I want students to fully understand the deep actions Jesus took each day. I love hearing their questions. I love hearing their surprise. This year, that is missing for me. I was very much like the Apostles. I was anxious, scared, and uncertain of how to carry my joy of this week to my students. I did something I never expected to do in my teaching career…I recorded my lessons and sent them to students. It was a strange feeling. Standing in my basement and teaching to a class that wasn’t present. I’m separated from those that draw me closer to my faith…I’m separated from 28 students that I need…but I know that when this is over, I’m going to be so much closer to them.

I took my students on a 3 day walk through Holy Week. Recorded lessons and created questions and reflections. Just wanted to make sure that they took this week and drew closer to Jesus. Little did I know that it would actually receive a lot of praise. My principal wanted me to post it on the school Facebook page. This was never my intent. My intent was to make this week all about my students. My students that I miss! I just wanted to comfort them and make them realize that through separation we are just feeling the same way the Apostles felt, but we have the knowledge of the great and glorious return.

It is so hard to think of the time that we will be back together. We don’t know when that will be. We don’t know how we will react. We don’t know what it will consist of, but we know it will happen. We need to trust in God and each other to ensure that when we get through this Holy Week and isolation that we will feel great joy, comfort, and peace. We are fortunate enough to know that we will be back together. We also know that Jesus is always with us.

God bless you all as we go through Holy Week. I’m praying for you all and preparing for the time that we will all be back together again!