Saturday, January 28, 2017

Let Go of the Results

Teaching is daily investment in dozens, even hundreds of lives. 

Our investment in our students does not guarantee 100% returns. 

  • Our offers of kindness are spurned, or mocked.
  • We give: time, help, supplies, kindness. Instead of gratitude, it's taken for granted, and we are expected to give more and more and more.
  • We provide an opportunity to redo past failures, but they let us down again.
  • All our "blood, sweat and tears" come to nothing when a student moves, quits school, or goes to jail.

What do you do when your hopes are dashed?

Some will turn cynical. They will quit investing in lives, quit caring, quit believing. It's easy to understand; you've been burned too many times.

Some will torment themselves with guilt, thinking, "I should have...". That is easy to understand, too. Their failures become our failures when we invest ourselves in them.

Is there another option?


Continue to give. Continue to believe. Continue to offer hope, love, grace, second, third, fourth, and seventy-seventh chances. Maintain your passion. Look at each student as an individual. Invest 100% and more.

Let go of the results.
Let go.

You cannot control the outcome, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try.

When we care deeply about our students, their failures and betrayals hurt; it becomes personal. That doesn't change. I've shed tears over students; I am guessing that you have too.

Even in the midst of your grief, let go of the results. They aren't up to you. 

As a teen in English class, I contemplated these lines in Tennyson's in "In Memoriam A. H. H."


The joy is in the memory, the investment, the gift of love, the journey. I have many cherished relationships: family, friends, church, colleagues, students, neighbors. Would I rather not have known them than to sorrow when I lose them? Never! The relationships are worth it!

Teachers, we MUST continue to believe, to hope, to care, regardless of the results. 

  • What are the greatest joys and deepest sorrows you've experienced in your teaching career?
  • How do you invest in your students?
  • Can you overcome cynicism and guilt?

Monday, January 16, 2017

I Won't Give Up, Will You?

During the first week of school two years ago I overheard this comment: "My sister says that if she (referring to me) gives me any ****, she will come in and **** her!"

If those "terms of endearment" were any indication, I was in for an interesting year!

Relationships require forgiveness.

"Sarah" came to class each day defiant. She swore at the drop of a hat, pushed for her own way, antagonized her classmates, and kept us from any moments of peace. But Sarah wasn't alone. She had several accomplices, students who were determined to disrupt, cause chaos, and demonstrate their independence and self-importance.

Each day was a challenge. Several times I deflected fights, and once had to have assistance for other teachers when Sarah and two other girls shouted obscenities and threats at one another.

All my attempts failed, at least with Sarah and company.

Relationships require patience.

One of my best assets in the classroom is patience. I believe that I am good at being patient, offering second, third, fourth (and more) opportunities. Each day I try to make a new roadway to a relationship, not compromising classroom procedures or expectations, but communicating the value of each student. By faith, I extend trust and care.

Relationships require determination.

That year I was continually rebuffed and often maligned. My best intentions were questioned and scorned. I have to admit, I felt defeated. I can usually win kids over in 180 days. Not this year, apparently...
Sometimes relationships are "one-way only".

Two years later, Sarah is in my class again. I begin the process again, but this year it is easier. She smiles and laughs, not maliciously. We work together each day, and Sarah demonstrates great growth: she socializes with others, works hard, is respectful in her conversation. Sarah has her moments, but they no longer define her.
Relationships require time.

In class one day, I was relating a story. In typical Sarah fashion, she interrupted with a loud comment,

"Why are you so calm? 
Do you think it's because...?"

Sarah had noticed. I had managed to make an impact. It just took time to nurture. 

Too often, I think, we give up on our students. If they "burn bridges" too many times, we deem them "incorrigible" or unworthy of our efforts.

We cannot give up! 

Our belief in that student may be the one thing that affects him/her later.

Sometimes, we have to let relationships be one-way. Sometimes we have to be content to give and not receive in return. Sometimes we have to end with a "Loss".

But, can't we hold on anyway? Can't we extend grace for another day, week, month, year? We don't know how sparsely a fire may be smoldering, but rather than dump water on it, let's give it air and time.

I won't give up,
Will you?
Sarah gave me this picture at Christmas this year. It's a simple gift with a lot of meaning, don't you think?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

I choose Integrity!

Here I stand before the open door...

2017 is beckoning me forward.

How will I live in this new year? 


Google defines integrity as "the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness".

Every day I am faced with choices to make. Some choices are easy and cost little; others come with a greater cost. Do I really believe what I say I believe, or is it something to be discarded when it becomes inconvenient? Fully aware of the cost, I choose INTEGRITY.

C.S. Lewis fleshes out the definition: "Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching".

Both public and private choices carry weight, and all carry consequences. A careless word can pierce a heart. Inaction can cause grievous consequences for someone in an untenable situation. Selfish choices can wound a relationship or destroy a trust. Fully aware of the consequences, I choose INTEGRITY.

Tony Dungy: "Integrity. The choice between what's convenient and what's right".

Sometimes, choices are simply more convenient. And I have a wheelbarrow full of excuses and justifications: No one will know or care. I don't have time. I'm too tired. He will never say anything. Other people are doing it. Maybe it's not really that important. Fully aware of the temptations to come, I choose INTEGRITY.

In 2017 I want to choose what's right, 

whether everyone is watching or no one is watching. 


  • What word will you choose?
  • What word do you want to define you?


(This blog is a conversation between my good friend (and instructional coach), Mrs. Stephanie Sandrock, and myself. As is often the case, I...