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Sitting around the table at a small Bistro Saturday night I enjoyed much-needed girl time with friends.  Three of us are teachers, all of us are mothers, and nothing is off-limits in the conversation.  We drifted among topics of kids and relationships.  Someone shared a story they had read about marriage.  The idea of the story is marriage is not for you, it is about building a family.  Marriage is not about what you get out of it, it is about what you give back to your spouse.  A healthy relationship is centered on the family, not a single person.  I began thinking.  It’s not about you.

Thursday I attended a conference where the keynote speaker, Jeff Charbonneau, shared his vision of the classroom.  When asked what we teach, the quick 30-second answer is a simple grade level or subject level response.  Mr. Charbonneau challenged us to think beyond the quick answer.  If you think about what you teach, it goes so much farther than your subject and grade.  As educators, we teach students to become productive members of society, respect for themselves and others, problem-solving, communication skills, and how to be responsible citizens in our world.  I began thinking.  It’s not about you.

Education is  ever-changing and the slant often reflected in the media is not always positive.  We are teaching in environments that are less than ideal.  We are implementing and adapting to a constantly changing curriculum.  We are using standards developed outside of classroom walls.  We are answering to policy makers, government officials, news media, parents, and many others who are not inside the walls of our classrooms.  We are bombarded with more acronyms than can be listed but currently include: CCSS, NGSS,  NCLB, EL, AP, EL, GED, IEP, BOE, USD, ESL, ESY, FAPE, MTSS, RTI, OT, PT, SL/LG, SI to name a few. Being an educator today is nothing less than overwhelming.  But what I see from great educators, what I hear from those in the field doing this hard work successfully, what I know is happening across this nation in classrooms large and small is one thing.  Teachers are focusing their energy and efforts on students.  It’s not about you.

Take a moment and think about where your greatest teaching decisions have been based.  Do you think about test scores?  Do you think about unit objectives?  Do you think about something more?  Everything we are doing should be focused towards the future. We as educators must continue to think beyond ourselves and do what is necessary to take education back and do what we know is right.  It goes beyond the requirements and meetings and acronyms.  It’s not about you.

Start, if you have not already, focusing on the community you are creating in your classroom.  Set up lessons and activities that allow your students to problem solve, fail, learn, and become self-reliant individuals.  Structure your classroom community so your students can rely on themselves and learn from their mistakes.  Set up opportunities for group work and sharing.  Dream of the community you want your own children, brothers, nieces, grandchildren to be a part of.  Provide that community for your students.

Next, reach out beyond your classroom walls.  When you students have developed a classroom community the next step is beyond.  Invite others into your community.  Set up experiences for your students to learn from experts and share their experiences.  There are many resources today to use in inviting others around the globe to enter your classroom (Skype, Google Hangout, etc.).  Citizenship is about positive interactions with others.  Expand your community.

[bctt tweet=” Citizenship is about positive interactions with others.” username=”EducatorsRoom”]

Finally, it’s not about you.  Our job as educators is to help students explore and develop their potential.  We must be constantly looking to the future that does not yet exist and create the community we want to be a part of.  We must put ourselves aside and teach each unique individual in our classrooms where they are, how they are; to encourage and help them down the path to tomorrow.  Imagine the neighbors, neighborhood, community, nation, and the world you would like to see.  Teach that!

It is easy to become overwhelmed and lost in education today.  But there is a reason you started.  That reason was beyond curriculum, standards, policies and acronyms.  That reason was a passion and a love of children.  That reason was a hope for our future.  That reason was the spark of learning.  So, what do you teach? You teach a society that will hope, love, care, give and solve problems in our future.  Teaching is not about what you get out of it, it is about what you give back.  It’s not about you, but it is about everything you do that will ripple through the tomorrows and impact our world.


Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading...

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