Your Best Self

I was listening to an interview with Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, when he said something interesting.  

“Everyone does the best they can with the awareness, skills, tools, and knowledge they have at the time.”

Thinking back to my first few years teaching, I certainly was doing the best I could with what I had and what I knew.  But 15 years later, thanks to experience and professional development, I know oh so much more about education—about running a classroom, reading students, understanding my own content area, about life.  This got me thinking, if right now we are doing the very best with what we have…how do we make sure we surpass our personal best tomorrow?  How can we continually improve our teaching practice? Here are some thoughts about how to be the best teacher you can be today…and an even better teacher tomorrow.

Feed your mind

The more I read, watch and listen, the more I find to bring into the classroom. Reading books and articles sparks ideas.  Listening to podcasts, watching the news, and even reading Twitter feeds all give me ideas for relevant lessons.  My teaching life is much richer as a result of the time I spend paying attention to the world around me (and the world within books!) when I am not teaching.  I keep a notepad to write down thinking immediately.  I don’t always have time to stop and plan an entire lesson on the spot, but I also don’t want to lose the idea.  Often I am not even reading something I think would be used for class and then bam!  Inspiration strikes.  In fact, the inspiration for this very blog post came from listening to Oprah’s Supersoul Sunday podcast! (I highly recommend this podcast.  I listen to it weekly. I even have used it in the classroom.  Those she interviews are thinkers and innovators in our world. They have done meaningful work. From Phil Jackson to Paulo Coehlo, Nate Berkus to Rainn Wilson—these are great role models for our students!)

Ease your mind

There are unlimited possibilities for our impact in this world.  Just as there are unlimited possibilities for YOUR impact as a teacher.  You never know how or when you are influencing others. Know that even on the hard days you need to be easy on yourself.  You ARE making a difference. Keep a few thank you cards from students in your top drawer for when you need a little reassurance.  

Clear your mind

One thing I have learned is that teaching is HARD WORK.  It is even harder when you are all work and no play.  This goes for IN and OUT of the classroom!  First, have fun with your students.  No, you don’t need to wait until Christmas to smile.  They may need that smile NOW more than you even know.  Second, have a life outside of school.  As an English teacher (and an AP one at that!) I know what it means to have an impossible workload.  There is never enough time to prep, plan, score, etc. during my prep period.  There is not even enough time if I come in early and leave school late.  So GO HOME. Do what you can and leave the rest for another day.  Set LIMITS at home.  If you MUST work at home (and let’s face it…we all need to sometimes) set a schedule.  Choose a day and set a time limit.  Then on all other days live your best life without answering emails, making copies on a Saturday, or entering grades.  You’ll be a better teacher if you spend time with your kids, take a bike ride, head to the beach, or binge watch Netflix.  Bonus: You’ll be a happier person, too!

Grow your mind

Lastly, I know many of you think professional development is more of a chore than an inspiration.  However, I have grown MOST as an educator because of professional development. No matter what speaker I hear, or workshop I attend, I leave with new thinking.  I am ignited and energized to head back to the classroom.  Even when I have to be out of the classroom to attend a workshop, my kids are not suffering. They will survive with a sub for a day or two because I have trained them well!  And when I return they feed on my newfound energy and their learning process improves.  When I am trying out new lessons with them, they enjoy my enthusiasm and dedication.  Look for professional development that fits your individual needs.  Seek out Twitter chats and join in!  It is much easier than you think. Find a conference.  Attend a Hart District PD workshop after school.  Read a professional development book. Heck, start a book club on campus! Join the PD team! With new “awareness, skills, tools, and knowledge” your best will get even better.  





  1. Two days ago 55 special ed kids represented Hart at the Museum of the Holocaust. They asked intelligent questions, were well read on the museum and it’s history and they were at their best. I did not even tell the docents they were special ed kids. They were ALL at their best.


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