New Product coming on TPT!

This morning, I am thinking about the first weeks of school!   They are approaching quickly.   Some folks begin next week!  The beginning is critical for all teachers, for sure.....especially for those of us "in the middle".  I am working on a product right now that I will offer on my Teacher Pay Teachers page that is designed to guide Middle School Teachers on a few key things that can help enormously with this age group...and some of the ideas might be different than you think!   Have a great Sunday!

Second blog: Moments of Awakening for the Middle School Teacher

The message:

People change when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

...Another way to say it is "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result'.

When I first started teaching, I was hard-headed....and slow!  I thought, "These middle school children should respect me because I am the adult!"  "They should do the right thing because...well....they just SHOULD!"  

Well, after beating my head up against the wall for several years, I realized I had to change some stuff or be sent off to a funny farm somewhere!

How do the quotes above apply to the middle school classroom?  What will make a teacher dig deep and take a look inside himself to make changes that can help them relate better to the children in their charge?  How bad does it have to get?  How miserable does one have to make their students before they realize they are doing a disservice to the students and to themselves?

I've worked in the public school system for 21 years, and I've seen teachers who are totally unhappy and who never take a look inward to, perhaps, see that there is a different way to do this....and that it just might work!  

I often hear teachers saying that it is the fault of someone else....and even if it is.....when you say that...when you blame others..... you become powerless to make your middle school classroom a fun-filled place of learning for the children.  Your room should not be a place they dread to go.

The Story:

In the attached video, I share the story of "We did good Mr. D".
Yes, I know the grammar is bad, but the message was right on.

It was my second year teaching middle school, and my little 8th grade girl, Asia, gently helped me have a moment of awakening, and I talk about it in the video.

Asia and her peers in my chorus class were almost all exclusively from lower middle and lower socioeconomic backgrounds.   That was the reason I failed at the endeavor I describe in the video, right!?!  No.  It was the parent's fault because they didn't volunteer to chaperone that day, right?   No.  Absolutely not.  It was the administrator's who didn't guide me enough on my first big outing, right?  Nope.

The same children had gotten top ratings with the preceding teacher under the same circumstances that I faced.

There was no excuse.  The bottom line is that what I was doing wasn't working.  I either needed to figure it out or stop teaching.

Harsh reality of the day:

It's not the principal.  It's not the school district.  It's not the parents. It's not the kids.

....It's ugly as that sounds and feels.

....and therein lies the difficult truth that set me free as a teacher and started me along the journey to be able serve and educate children more completely.  It was one of the moments I dug deep and starting brainstorming about how to get better at this job.  I still do it, and so must you.  The answers are inside of you. 

The lesson:

Each of us has gifts.  Each of us has parts of ourselves that the kids would absolutely love and enjoy at every level.  Sharing our three-dimensional selves with them is critical.  Laughing with them....telling silly stories......doing fun things.  It all helps us establish relationships with our middle school students.

How many moments of awakening will pass you by before you realize that perhaps the way you relate to the children either isn't working or could be improved in some way that would make you a more effective teacher and help them learn better? may even make you like your job more!

When we wake up and look within, we find the answers we need to be successful with this very special age group.  They learn.  They thrive.  They want more.  We enjoy them!  It's a win/win!

I hope the video gives you some fuel to get fired up for the new year.

Like me at:

Music Teachers!  Learn More About My Sight Singing Method:

Mr D LifeChanger 11Alive

This was an incredibly special day in my life.  After struggling for many years at the beginning of my career as a middle school teacher, I was honored as the Life Changer of the Year by the National Life Group in March of 2013.   To think back on the numerous failures early in my career, it is still hard for me to believe that I may actually have determined some ways to work well with this age group.  I think that, in some ways, I still see myself as a beginner trying to find his way.  In the early days of my career, the kids ate me up, chewed me up and spit me out.  I was afraid of them.  I didn't understand how to work well with their parents.  I always felt overwhelmed.  I didn't understand how to teach them my music material in a way they could understand.  I was authoritarian in my approach.  The kids had no indication from me that I cared about them.  I didn't understand classroom management.  It was the perfect storm of misery and chaos on a monumental level.  I couldn't even talk about it with my peers, family or friends because I was so ashamed.  Now, with Facebook being all the rage, I occasionally hear from students who had me early in my career.  The first thing I say is "I'm sorry."  :)
It is possible to get better.  It is possible to feel successful.  It is possible to thrive and to help your middle school children reach their highest possible peaks.  In this blog, I hope to help you work your way toward doing just that.  In each video entry, I plan to share at least one story of something from early in my career that was humiliating, embarrassing, or otherwise showed that I was pretty much inept at teaching this age group. 
It not only gets easier, it gets incredibly rewarding in some of the most profound ways imaginable. 

First Blog Entry! Introduction to:

Welcome from Mr D!

Hi Everyone!  I have been teaching middle school for 20 of my 21 years of teaching in public schools.  I have taught in three states.  Two of the states were in the South and one of the states in the Northeast.  I have taught children of all economic and cultural backgrounds.   In the early years, I felt like a miserable failure as a teacher.  I have lots of stories.  :)  Some of them are funny.  Some of them are...well...not so funny.  Each experience, good or bad, shaped my philosophy as an educator today.  In this blog, I want to share some of those stories and the lessons I learned from them.  I want other teachers to be encouraged.  I want you to laugh.  I want you to cry.  I want you to be moved to continue searching deep inside yourself to find the best possible way for you to serve the middle school children you teach using the natural gifts you have as a human being. 

I love this age group, but they certainly aren't the easiest group to figure out.  Hopefully, some of the things I offer in this blog will help you serve the children in your middle school classroom at this critical juncture in their young lives.