10 Videos You Must Show Your Class

Videos for the Classroom

In my post a few weeks ago, after listening to Duckworth discuss the importance of grit in the classroom I highlighted some approaches worth considering.

Well, after reading the post as it sits online, I just don’t think I gave you much help – which is the whole point of this blog.

So when convincing your students on the importance of doing one’s best, or how to live one’s life, or what each of us can do to make our world a better place, or the importance of love… here are some videos worth showing to your class.

I challenge you to use one a week or perhaps choose one that stands apart from the others (to you).

Have an honest conversation about what’s important in their lives, and yours.

  1. 10 Rules to Live By

Some classic rules to live by. Perhaps an excellent way to start your beginning of the year conversation about classroom rules as your students create their own to follow. A great way to building a classroom culture of care.


2. A Brave Kid Stands Up To Bullies

When a student speaks up about how others make him feel. Being a friend to others can make all the difference in the life of someone. Very short, but a great opener to starting a conversation in your class about being a friend to others.


3. Kids Who Need Medical Care Find Hope

A video about helping children who need help during their toughest days. A short film about helping even if helping doesn’t end well.


4. Pizza Shop Pays It Forward

One person’s idea to give others the opportunity to help others. If only more students, and more of us, would make the time to help others that need a boost of encouragement.


5. Teachers’ Inspiration

Students need to hear that they matter. Here’s a great video to share before you tell your students what they mean to you.


6. Unbroken Motivational Video

I love this one for its energy. Perhaps for our older students as some of the imagery is intense.


7. The Bar Mirror That Speaks

Definitely a video for the older students facing the challenge of making the right decision before getting behind the wheel. An excellent option right before prom.


8. The Unexpected Basket

When we look out for each other, it brings out the best in us.


9. Who I Am Makes A Difference

Each year, after a few months of getting to know my students, I would show this video to my 5th graders – a serious video I agree. I would then make slips of paper with “who you are makes a difference” that they could give to others after I gave one to each of them. A great video about taking the time to acknowledge each person’s value to others around them.


10. Truly Amazing Teacher

I believe I saved the best for last. Here is ten minutes of not just a great teacher whose enthusiasm is obvious as he attempts to blow up a pumpkin, but also a teacher who has enthralled his students during a conversation about love. This is one I’m going to have to put on repeat and from it, get inspired.


If you thought these were useful, take a look at these 12 videos I shared some time ago that may also work in your conversations with your students. I hope you find them empowering and thought provoking as well.

Do you a favorite video that you share with students? Send a link in the comments section. I would love to see others that have made a difference in you and your students’ lives.

Why Teaching Might Not Be For You

Are You Sure You Want To Teach?

Been thinking of joining the ranks?

There will be no special letter in the mail saying we’d be happy to have you join us.

Nor will your doorbell ring and on your stoop be a man dressed in his best and ready to have you sign on the dotted line.

However, allow me to say, we’d be happy to have you join us.

Teaching is a profession often misunderstood and has certainly changed from when you and I sat in the classroom – so it is misunderstood even more so.

Teaching shouldn’t, however, be misunderstood by those interested in making it a career choice.

Each year I have the privilege to speak to students at the University of Richmond who are in the process of earning their bachelors or masters and then their certifications to teach.

I tell them this:

“I will be honest with you about the teaching profession, if you honestly think about whether you really want to enter the profession.”

As a student sitting in an evening course over a decade ago, I so appreciated when a high school principal came to our class and shared with us the truth about his job. There were no punches pulled; it was all unfiltered truth.

Hearing him share his experience, made a difference to me.

I am hopeful the following has the same effect on you.

Before you decide to call yourself a teacher, here are six unfiltered realities about teaching you need to know:

  1. It isn’t just about the kids.
  2. It isn’t easy.
  3. You won’t go home and be able to forget about your day.
  4. You won’t go home and be able to not do anything until you go back to work the next day.
  5. The first year is hell.
  6. You will be under-appreciated.

You’ll notice that there isn’t much positivity there and I don’t like that a bit because I pride myself on being positive when life throws a curveball.

There’s no positivity in those six realities above because you should go into the profession knowing that it isn’t all popsicles, pigtails, patient parents, pink bowties, and paper bows. Being the teacher isn’t always pretty.

You’re reading this because you know there must be a reason you’ve been called to teach – I really do believe it’s a calling.

We all love the little people – I get that.

But do you love the little people enough to endure all the challenges you’ll have to overcome?

It Isn’t Just About The Kids

It’s about a lot more than what might have drawn you in at the beginning.

Teaching is about being with students for a year and then hoping you’ve imparted enough, impressed enough, for them to go on to the next grade. Hopefully, once there, they will leave upon others the impression that they can and will be successful.

It’s about the future and your impact upon it now – and how that manifests itself later.

It’s about those that your students live with at home. It’s their experience at school that often shapes dinnertime conversation. It’s their challenge at school that dictates the worry parents share with one another. It’s your students’ success that bring celebration at the ice cream counter.

It’s about the value of their parents’ homes – state test scores are often one of the first qualifiers prospective homeowners research when deciding to moving into a neighborhood. It’s about district accreditation and the politics of school boards and their decision making.

Again, it’s about more than kids.

It shouldn’t be, but it is.

It Isn’t Easy

In fact, expect to be frustrated.

If there’s anything I’ve realized it’s that teaching doesn’t come naturally. Sure, there are some that can command a room, but there’s so much going on in the classroom. It’s going to take some time to feel competent.

From assessments to learning objectives to group dynamics to motivational strategies. From  student meetings to recess duty to grade book peculiarities to district focus to recertification classes. From training modules to faculty meetings to student files to parent-teacher conferences to morning meetings.

It is going to take some time to get comfortable up at the front – and that’s to be expected.

You Won’t Go Home And Be Able To Forget About Your Day

If my day didn’t go as well as I would like, I often want nothing more than to do a redo. Mostly though I’m trying to figure out how I could have done a lesson better or how I could have had a very different conversation with a student.

Your drive to your home may include a call to a student’s home to share not just challenges, but also a positive experience at school.

You are going to arrive at home and if you’re lucky enough, as I am, to have a family waiting for you then you’ll probably repeat the entire day’s experience to them.

There will be days you’re bothered by a parent’s remarks about you or the low assessment scores from the last test. Other days will find you smiling and laughing at the dinner table remembering what happened earlier in the day. Either way, you’re going to daydream about your students during the day, and perhaps even have some schoolmares at night.

You Won’t Go Home And Be Able To Not Do Anything Until You Go Back To Work The Next Day 

I have yet to figure out a way to leave work at work – literally.

At the end of the school day I’ve seen teachers roll suitcases, pull milk crates on wheels and have canvas bags hanging from the end of each arm as they head toward home. Others use backpacks or shoulder bags. I’ve even seen a grocery bag or two.

I would very much like to tell you that you won’t need to do any work at home, but I would be lying to you.

I won’t lie to you.

Between beginning of the year reports, getting your classroom organized, figuring out your first week of lessons, getting to know your students’ names, remembering the copier code, and understanding the acronyms that are mentioned between colleagues in the hallway – you’re going to be exhausted.

There’s no way you’re going to be able do the other million and one items on your to-do list at school.

Well, you could if you got a cot, a nice soft pillow and warm comforter, but they frown on that nowadays.

Your family will most likely frown too.

The First Year Is Hell

I hate to say it this way because I am grateful that I really don’t know what hell is like, nor do I have any interest.

It got your attention though, right? The first year is definitely the toughest.

Like swimming in a pot of water being slowly heated on the stove, the first year is going to get increasingly uncomfortable.

For returning teachers, we all start the year on a positive note after we acclimate to once again not being able to sleep in as long as we would like (note: actually full disclosure: not all teachers start on a positive note which I don’t truly understand – the time we have with our families during the summer is awesome).

We envision great things and try to improve on areas in which we didn’t do well last year.

For a new teacher, you really do go into that first year largely blind no matter how well your college classwork might have prepared you. Perhaps though, ignorance is bliss as some would profess.

The year starts slow and consistent. The year then begins to get frantic.

And then it quickly becomes a rollercoaster of emotion brought on, not only by uncertainty and inexperience, but also from utter exhaustion.

Your students will test you, your colleagues will often be speaking a different language during team meetings, and your principal will try to determine whether they’ve made the right decision hiring you.

The experience will be similar to that of being on a moving sidewalk – the kind you find at the international airport between departure gates, with no exit point ahead that you can see. You can try to turn around and go backwards to seek an escape, but that’s no solution either. Face forward and you will be rolled into the unknown.

You’ll be on the ride every first-year teacher has taken – it ain’t much fun.

You Will Be Under-Appreciated.

Your own parents will initially be supportive (or not) – it’s hard, after all, to say with an honest face that one disapproves of teachers.

Your spouse will be happy that you’re now getting paid after all the unpaid student teaching you did, but they won’t have counted on all the extra work you’re now doing at home.

When people ask you what you do and you share your career decision, they will remember all the unhappy experiences sitting in the classroom.

They will ask how you in fact do it? How do you manage all those kids? They may even place their hand on your shoulder and proclaim that you are a saint – but do it with sad eyes.

Perhaps during the summer you will feel elated that your new year has yet to start. That there’s still time to take another trip to the beach. Then you hear your neighbors talk about who their child has this upcoming year and they share their displeasure.

Ready To Change Your Major? Ready To Throw In the Teaching Towel?

So why do it?

At this point, if you’re still reading this, why in God’s name would you even consider teaching?

Simply, there is no more noble profession than teaching.

We teach every child.

Whether they come to us from homes where they’re well taken care of or come from homes where they’re an after thought, they arrive to us each morning.

They come to us hungry and well fed, happy and sad, well loved and mistreated.

They arrive full of hope and tired before they ever sit down. They sit down excited about a favorite subject and never having found joy in anything that has to do with school. They want to tell stories and not ever utter a word. They begin the year at the start line and they begin well behind because of challenges they’ve had their entire life. They want to impress you and they could care less.

We teach every one of them.

They are the little people entrusted to us and regardless of how they arrive, you are their teacher.

You will always, from here on out, be their teacher.

You will be on their class picture hidden deep in a pile in their attic, and found when they move from one home to another. You will be in their thoughts when their own children are in the grade you’re now teaching.

You have the opportunity to change lives at an age in which your students will look back and include you as the reason they are who they are. That’s pretty amazing.

It’s an opportunity few others have.

And that’s why you should join the ranks of teaching.

I hope you’ll join us.

Do you have some realities I failed to share? Please share in the comment section so that those new to teaching might know the challenges you faced and they in turn can be convinced to become a teacher. Thank you.

LeVon Young Answers 10 Teacher Questions

Levon Young

For some time now I’ve been passing LeVon’s classroom on my way up the hall. I remember meeting him the first time in a staff development meeting where he launched himself up upon a desk – he’s quite the athlete. Ever since, we’ve spent time occasionally sharing experiences about being male in an elementary school. Here are my 10 questions that he’s been kind enough to answer. I hope by sharing these with you, it offers another insight into what it means to teach today.

1. Why did you become a teacher?

My mom taught in Chesterfield County for thirty-one years as a Special Education teacher; so I have been around it my whole life.  My undergraduate degree is in Computer Science.  But, the Spring Break of my first senior year at JMU, I went on an alternative Spring Break in Camden, New Jersey with the fellowship that I was involved in.  We had the chance to work with inner city kids.  It was a pretty life changing experience seeing how much they appreciated what we were doing, and the connections that we were able to make in just a short time. I contrasted what I had spent my undergrad doing in Computer Science, and thought about the difference and relationships that I had watched my mom make in addition to my experience on the trip.  The choice seemed like an easy one.

2. What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge has always been my first 3 years teaching in Henrico.  I felt like I was taken through the fire in my experience there.  Most everything in comparison to that seems much easier.

3. What do you think makes you successful?

In relation to question number 2, I would say faith in Christ that gave me a hope that never waivers, my mom’s encouragement during that time, and a supportive staff, mentor, and administration that bonded because of the pressures of the environment.

4. How do you start your first day, first week of school?

If we are talking about my first day of teaching, it was a hectic one. My classroom was under construction (they were taking a big class and splitting it into two, and I wasn’t truly allowed to move in until the Friday and Saturday before school began.  Figuring out how to structure the classroom, implement the lessons in a timely manner, and control “everything” that goes on in a classroom that college could never prepare you for has always been a live and learn type process.

5. Do you have any daily norms?

Plenty outside of school.  But inside the realms of the school building, one of the things that I have grown to treasure is greeting students in the hallway while on hall duty in the mornings.  I love being able to watch former students grow, meet others, and being able to just be goofy and encourage them in the morning as they are walking by.

6. How do you motivate?

This can be a tough one given the age of the students and the rigors of the SOLs.  Adult-hood is so far away from the 1st graders that I teach.  My motivation for doing this is based on how having a solid education will help them out later in their lives.  That is a difficult argument to push to a 6 year old that is only looking forward to lunch and recess.  But ultimately I try to scale it back and express that what they are learning now is a foundation for them to be able to move into 2nd grade.  Whether they enjoy school or not, they are ALL excited about moving on to the next grade and getting older with more responsibility.  Understanding a little of what it takes to be in a place that some of the older students that they look up to are in often times motivates them to push a little harder.

7. Favorite subject / topic?

Hands down, Reading.  I love teaching the fundamentals of reading and waiting for that “lights on” clicking moment for them.  Reading can take you anywhere that you want to go in this life.  It can help you in Science, Social Studies, Music, Art, PE, and even Math.  Once they figure out what their interests are, all they have to do is pick up a book and dive in.  Non-Fiction boring?  No problem! Pick up a fictional book and get lost for hours in another world.  I love reading!!  I also love the moment my students go from, “I can’t read” to not wanting to stop.

8. How do you teach challenging students?

Cliche aside… I think the most important thing with challenging students is to somehow make a connection with them.  This is not always the easiest of tasks… and sometimes it doesn’t happen.  But if you can make a connection with them, they begin not wanting to let you down.

9. Best memory teaching?

Every year around May when the picture begins to come clear about how much growth everyone has made from September.

10. What do you think most people don’t know about the teaching profession?

The sheer hours that are put in, even if you are not spending them in the actual school building.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on LeVon’s experiences and thoughts on teaching. Please leave a comment on my site to encourage others to do the same – thank you!

Is It A Bad Idea To Raise Teacher Expectations?

Raising Expectations

Do you think your teacher expectations are set too high?

Have you started to convince yourself that lowering standards is the fair thing to do for your students?

The Angry Mom Conference

Years ago, almost a decade now, I had quite the conference with a parent. Funny what memories we hold on to, or hold on to us.

In the midst of one of these conferences, in which I told the mom that her son had difficulty in keeping up and needed to spend more time on task, she informed me that my expectations were too high.

And then she told me she expected me to lower those expectations.

I was in shock.

She later told my principal that I, and I quote here, “made her blood boil.”

Yep, I was shocked again.

Why My Expectations Aren’t Low

I had worked hard on being the type of teacher that was fair, deliberate and also planned lessons with care. I didn’t just want to be the teacher that ran his classroom mindlessly.

I wanted some thinking in my class and I wanted students to relate to what they they were learning.

I expect my students to overcome challenges – not because I throw them up to create anxiety, but because we all are challenged by areas in which we struggle – students have them too.

Seeing a student prove their mettle when they didn’t think they could, was and is, why I teach.

I’m a believer in the human spirit and the opportunity that we as teachers have in bringing out the best in our students.

Grit Defined As Required

A few years ago I came across what educators were calling grit. When I first heard of the term, it made me uncomfortable. Like getting sand in your swim trunks at the beach – ouch.

In education circles, grit speaks toward what we hope exists within our students.

In speaking at the Carnegie Foundation’s Summit on Improvement in Education, Angela Duckworth’s keynote highlighted how we can encourage this ability in our students.

Her experience teaching math in inner city schools convinced her that their success wasn’t defined by one’s IQ, but instead by their desire to overcome adversity. After teaching for a number of years she continued on to graduate school in which her research focused on students, teachers as well as professionals – all in the hopes of figuring out what attributes best define success.

It wasn’t social intelligence, IQ, good looks, or physical health.

It was grit.

As Duckworth states in the video below, it’s living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint. She continues to point out that having grit is in fact inversely related to talent.

Duckworth readily admits that she hasn’t yet figured out exactly how to ensure getting the grit into your classroom, but here are some thoughts based on her research.

Improving the grittiness of our students to better guarantee their success.

  1. Keep your students’ focus on the task at hand.

To me this equates to the all importance of classroom management.

It’s also about their believing that with a little more focus, than they think they have within themselves, they’ll get it.

I’ve written before about the importance of the The Ah Hah Moment in my class and how I reiterate to my students that each of them might, and probably will, learn things at a different time – just like when they learned how to walk.

However we can, and it’s often frustrating for me when my students don’t cooperate as much as I expect, managing students’ time on task is crucial.

A few attempts I’m trying in my classroom.

  • Breaking down the lesson to include a story or two to break apart the instruction.
  • Reminding students the importance of focus.
  • Changing teaching methods to include various approaches to engagement and learning.

2. Encourage the belief that with effort, they can learn and improve over time.

Reminding students of this and then acknowledging when they’ve been successful, especially when the task at hand was a difficult one for them, is something I’m constantly trying to share with my class.

I do this through…

  • sharing past student stories
  • highlighting current student’s success
  • posting student success on my Success Board
  • sharing videos about “what’s important in life”

Now it’s time I ask you, have you told your students how awesome they are?

Have you told them that they each possess attributes that only they have?

It reminds me of the video of this teacher below.

Now imagine if each of us did what this teacher does each day with his students.

We should consistently build our students up while also being honest and sincere about what each needs to work on.

So here I sit reflecting on holding students to high expectations.

I’m also reminded how parents have come up to me at the end of the year saying they appreciated the experiences of their children doing more than they thought they could and being proud when they proved themselves successful.

No, I won’t be lowering my exceptions any time soon.

How do you introduce grit into your classroom? Do you have techniques that you introduce into your classroom that raise the bar? Please include them in the comments section, I would love to hear them.