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I have a dear friend who is a high school guidance counselor. She has had this job over the years through many changes of administration and policy. Each year she has a large number of students to meet and encourage. My first thought is that she is there to help them plan for the future – know their strengths, choose a career goal, choose their next educational endeavor. For some, this is what she does. For others she hopes first to keep them in high school long enough to graduate. Over the brief time she has them she must develop a relationship and ask for their trust. She holds her breath as she watches them navigate their own personal mine fields – homelessness, abuse and neglect, drugs, alcohol, loneliness, ridicule, promiscuity, anxiety. Often policy changes leave her with more than she can possibly do and fewer tools with which to do anything. Their situations are on her mind far past the dismissal of the last class.

b2ap3_thumbnail_20150522_141415-1-1.jpgI know a woman who was an elementary school teacher in a small private school. Her example was that of great caring for her students, their families and their greatest good. She dealt with the problems of modern families, showing them compassion, integrity and principles of truthfulness with love. When an administrator was needed for the school, she accepted the position and added that to her teaching role. She left only to become caretaker for her elderly mother. When that was no longer necessary she could have retired, but returned to teaching.

I know a man who teaches music in a high school for gifted students. He holds a second job in music ministry for his church but that doesn't keep him from spending time with his students and knowing them personally. He is fun, energetic, smart and kind and for all of that his students love him. He pushes them to excellence in their band competitions, he spends hours on their special projects and teaches them to view music with high regard. He also takes their problems home at the end of the day. His church family often hears requests to pray for his students.

 It is the end of the school year. May is teacher appreciation month. Who do you know who needs to be affirmed, encouraged or thanked for being who they are and doing what they do in the field of education? What will you do about it?

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Honor a Teacher this Month

Teachers come in all sizes, all ages, from all countries.  They teach so many different things it would be hard to name them all.  In our hemisphere there are many countries having a public school year that ends in the spring, specifically May or June, and here we are in that very time.  Graduation ceremonies are being held and both students and teachers are being honored for their work, and along that line, I have an education story to share with you. It is special to me and you will see why.

For several years I have been getting acquainted with an organization called Asia's Hope.  They establish homes for orphans and children at risk in India, Thailand and Cambodia.  With help from a variety of private sponsors they have built several campuses consisting of from five to ten orphan homes and a school.  Each home houses a family unit of 20 -24 children, a house parent couple and one or two additional caretakers.  The children have this family for life and part of what is provided for each child is a good education.  

On the Asia's Hope campus where I have visited, early grades are taught on premises but older students go to public high school and then to university or trade school, much like the pattern in the United States.  This May many are finishing their school year and getting their class ranking. One home in particular has sent me a "glowing" report of the progress several of their students have made. Three of their students placed 2nd in their classes of over 40, and two placed 3rd in their classes.

Since all of these children are serious students and aspire to be the hope of their country for the future, one of the things they are learning is the English language.  When I first met them in 2011 most spoke no English at all and it was difficult to communicate with them in any depth.  Hugs and smiles were about as far as we could go.  This has gradually changed over the years. Numerous ones are fluent and most understand well even if they cannot speak.  The final announcement from this home was of special note.

"One of our young students has been working to teach English to others at a local school."

A new teacher has been born! This young lady wants to study nursing at the university some day but for now she is sharing her knowledge of English with younger students, which is quite an accomplishment.  Imagine yourself learning a second language well enough to teach it to others.  I am so proud of her!


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Movie Time


School has been in session for several weeks already and teachers and students are settling into their routines.  Thinking of this cyclical process, oddly, made my mind go to stories of teachers I remembered from movies.  My list was not very long, but knowing there had to be more I did an internet search for top teacher movies.  From a couple different lists, I'm going to give you some ideas for that inspirational movie night. Most, if not all of them, present the challenges of teaching, the flexibility and creativity that is needed, and the rewards that come from dedication and persistence in the classroom.

Since I have not watched all of these films you are encouraged to check reviews to make sure they are suitable for your audience.   

October Sky PG-13

School of Rock PG-13

Lean on Me PG-13

Remember the Titans PG

Mr. Holland's Opus PG

Stand and Deliver PG

Dead Poets Society PG

Goodbye Mr. Chips G

Conrack PG

Freedom Writers PG-13

The Great Debaters PG-13

Half Nelson R

Teachers R

Dangerous Minds R

Up the Down Staircase R

To Be and To Have (no rating)

To Sir With Love (no rating))

Blackboard Jungle (no rating)

The Miracle Worker (no rating)

Movies about education and the classroom are always going to highlight the exchange of knowledge and ideas between generations.  School is one place where young people explore the world they are growing into with it's social and cultural issues, as well as it's physical facts. The interactions that students have with teachers are so influential.  

Have you watched any of these movies? Do you have one to add to the list?  What is your favorite? 

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Hey, Good Job!

Recognition and productivity – do you see the connection? Timely and appropriate recognition motivates people to be productive. Productivity adds value to both educational and business environments and motivates recognition. They are pretty common sense partners. But what can you do to stimulate productivity during those occasional “dry spells”? What form should recognition take to be effective in a particular setting? Here are a few ideas.


 When productivity is needed:


  • Productivity can be stimulated by “think time”. Sometimes it's as simple as taking a 15 minute break from your desk, or making use of that vacation time benefit (it's there for a reason, duh...) Some forward thinking companies even incorporate unstructured time into their employees schedules and find that it is well worth it. Read about that here
  • When you are in an unproductive phase, lower the bar slightly and produce something even if it's not your best or brightest. It might be something that can be refined or improved later and it might spark an idea that will give you new energy.
  • Identify one task that most intimidates or stalls your productivity and work on it for an hour. It's usually the task that you've been putting off, feeling guilty about not doing, feeling annoyed with, or unprepared to handle. One hour of attention can accomplish more than you might imagine and suddenly the task becomes manageable. You have freedom to move on. 

When recognition is due:


  • Recognition can be as simple as a sincere word of thanks, or making sure that the correct person is acknowledged verbally for their idea or action


  • Public recognition serves as a motivator for others to be productive as long as it can be seen as attainable, with clear benchmarks


  • Timely recognition earns more loyalty. It is so much better to surprise someone who is doing an exemplary job than to try to win back an worker who has been overlooked or ignored. Be proactive in looking for those who deserve recognition.


  • Give highly productive people the opportunity to share their ideas, lead projects, and motivate others as a part of recognition.



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Education Happens Everywhere!

Where does education start?  Not in the classroom, that's for sure.  Learning starts when the mind is formed and that might be even before birth!  The family unit is the first school we come in contact with and it is full of teachers - parents, siblings, relatives and friends.  By the time a child comes into his first classroom his teacher hopes he has learned some very important lessons on how to interact with the world. Good parenting isn't usually recognized on an institutional level, but it should be recognized!  Do you know someone who is sending their child off to kindergarten this fall?  Send them an Apple Award for all the time and effort spent preparing their first time student. ( Who knows, it might even lessen some of the angst that comes with this landmark event.)

And what about those years after formal schooling? I wouldn't be surprised if more learning takes place then than at any other time.  The workplace is where that education meets the real world, and mentors are needed for the transition.  A smart business pays attention to the path new employees take as they start work.  Awards and other means of recognition (like, say, a nice raise in pay?) are ways of motivating workers to be creative, productive and stay on the job. 

Who was instrumental in helping you as you started work? Did you have a mentor, someone who built your confidence and encouraged you?  And if you've been working long enough to be an expert, who are you mentoring and to whom are you passing along the valuable things you've learned?  Your stories and comments are welcomed as we look at all the places education happens.


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Ring Them In

Bells have been used to summon people to gather together in many historical settings.  As early as the 8th century BC there are depictions of bells in ancient Chinese tablets.  And the oldest bells around today date back to the 5th century BC.  In the early years of our country (and others) bells were common on churches and schools and were used to rally townspeople for meetings of all kinds and even for emergencies.  Think of our famous Liberty Bell.  Their sound carried far and could be heard by those working outside as well as in buildings.  How else might you alert an entire community before the advent of telephone, or electric amplification? The bells had it.  For a very interesting history from a bell manufacturer click here

Bells are considered percussion instruments and can be made of many different materials, from clay to wood, glass or metal.  Their size and structure can be changed to give them a variety of pitches and sounds.  If you have ever heard a performance by a good hand bell choir, you will know that they are beautiful sounding instruments.  

As mentioned, bells are associated with schools and education both past and present.  They signal not only the start of the school day but also recess and dismissal so they are considered symbols of freedom from the classroom.  The school bell, if large, was hung in a belfry on top of the building or mounted on the side of the building or in the schoolyard.  Teachers often had a smaller hand bell on their desk, such as the ones pictured below.  They have become symbols of freedom also for retiring educators, memorializing their years of service.  

These brass bells from Apple Awards can be personalized and make a quality gift that will be treasured. Unlike the largest known bell which resides in Moscow and weighs 440,000 lbs. these bells are easily packaged and shipped to you at a reasonable cost.  


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Remembering Excellent Teachers

Junior High was the designation given to seventh and eighth grades back in the dark ages when I went to school in my small midwestern town. Compared to the present, that time was pretty safe. It never occurred to us that someone might bring a gun to school, and gangs were the kids you played ball with after school (well, I guess that's still true – except that's about all we did in our gangs).



But even back then some of the sharpest, most discerning teachers were put in charge of our learning. They were demanding, but they rewarded every effort and helped us build confidence. It was during those years that I came to know and appreciate Kathryn Coogan and Mary Harnden.


Mrs. Coogan was small but powerful. I'm not going to say she was an eccentric dresser but I remember her most vividly as walking down Main Street in her matching coat and beret, heels, and full makeup, especially rouged cheeks. She was precise and careful and she made me want to please her any time she gave an assignment. She was watchful and there was no fooling around in her class. I don't remember ever being uncomfortable with her style of teaching but she was not “our buddy” as some teachers are tempted to be. The lines were clear and she was in charge. English was her forte. Many sentences were diagrammed. I don't know if that is even done anymore but it kind of made parts of speech fun and memorable for me. She made me care how my handwriting looked.


Mary Harnden was formidable in a different way. She looked more like a grandmother, but the silent type. I never was quite sure what she was thinking about my work and as a result I learned to critique myself more thoroughly. She taught us to read widely and carefully, among other things.



The bus I rode to school traveled the road past Mrs. Harnden's house and every day I saw her gardens and wondered when she had time to work in them. I knew some of her own children and admired how they excelled in school. I think she had a hard life in some ways but I'm ashamed that being an average, self-absorbed teen-age girl, I never really knew her. A couple years ago on a visit home, I heard that she was living in the local nursing home and I felt I had to go see her. I wanted to let her know how much I appreciated her as an educator. I don't know if she remembered me or not. I sat across from her at her table and we put a few pieces of her jig saw puzzle together.


I don't know what happened when these ladies retired from teaching because I moved away and lost touch with the school. Hopefully, they were celebrated and honored. There's no doubt that they influenced countless young people positively during their careers. I know I will never forget them.


Is there a teacher that had an impact on your life? Maybe one you never had a chance to thank?   

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