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Instructional Coach for Pleasant Valley School District

Thank you for sharing this

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Thank you for sharing this article! Last year the students in my school actually started their own grass roots movement for positivity and kindness and they call it HOPE. They accomplished some remarkable things and inspired a lot of people, both young and old, in grades K-12, so I agree that HOPE is inside all of us. You can read more about their epic adventures on my blog if you're interested -

Director, Antioch Center for School Renewal

I think that cynicism is the

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I think that cynicism is the product of fear with a pinch of fatigue throw in. In our mindfulness program at Antioch we help teachers to stay in the present moment, really seeing the people around us as they actually are in that moment, not as we believe them to have been in the past or fear they might be in the future. Throw in a dash of gratitude and you can break the fear/ cynicism loop in your head.

I also find that being fully present for the people around me lets me really connect with their experiences and needs. Sometimes that just looks like putting distractions aside, making eye contact, really listening to what's being said and felt by the person across from us and NOT trying to judge, fix, or correct. Just being *with* someone, bearing witness to their experience, can help to reconnect us to one another. Connection- relationship- is a powerful driver for hope and (my other favorite) disruptive joy!

Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I think mindset is so

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I think mindset is so important. You have to go into the situation expecting great things, rather than always assuming the worst. I worked in a law office just out of college, and I was always amazed at how pessimistic my boss was- years of experience led him to believe (correctly) that more people would not follow through with their promises than would.
Experience teaches us many things, but we have to be careful it doesn't cause us to assume that if one kid lies, for example, all kids lie. Being experienced and being jaded don't have to be the same thing, and this post is a great way to stave off the dark underbelly of disappointment and frustration.

1st grade teacher - Texas

Thank you for your advice, Dr. Curwin!

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Sometimes an outsider's perspective is just what you need. Hope is hard to find in my own circle. (They feel the same way I do.)
Will definitely work on your suggestions.
I'll also keep in mind what you said about Texas. A move might also be worth considering.

Warm Regards,

1st grade teacher - Texas

Director, Graduate program in behavior disorder, David Yellin College

Dear first grade teacher from

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Dear first grade teacher from Texas,

I could say change states. Texas gives less freedom to teachers than any state in America. Or I could sympathize with you and try to tell you it's not all that bad. Or maybe say suck it up and just do your job. But I won't say any of these things. I hear in your letter a genuine desire to be a great teacher and are frustrated by so many things that you really don't know how to deal with. So let me start by saying you raise many very difficult questions and some that I need more information to give you the best answer. Also I want to answer in a way that other readers might also benefit. I'm a terrible salesperson, but I wrote two books that might be very helpful. The first is REDISCOVERING HOPE: OUR GREATEST TEACHING STRATEGY and the second and more recent is MEETING STUDENTS WHERE THEY LIVE: MOTIVATION IN URBAN SCHOOLS. They can be found at

Now, I'll try to answer your questions as best I can.
1. If you are too afraid of an administrator to talk honestly then change that relationship. Say good morning in a pleasant way each morning. Do something that makes her job easier. All administrators appreciate that. Ask for help in solving a problem, then use her advice. This will develop within her an investment in you. She will really like knowing she helped you find an answer that works. Your relationship should become less fearful in time so you can talk to her in an honest way. And remember your administrators are under the same. if not more. pressure than you are.
2. If you can't send students to the office, develop a team of other teachers and you can send really rough students to each other when necessary. I believe you must solve your own problems with students without the interference of the administrator, but I know you sometimes teachers need a break from a kid for a time. By the way, kids almost never act out in other teachers' classes. Help each other out without formal referrals.
3. Most schools tell teachers what to teach but not how. Use what ever space you can find to be creative and innovative. If none exists, and this is rare, then change the timing of what you cover to give you more time to be the kind of teacher you want to be. Instead of spending 20 minutes on encoding letters, spend 15 and over the course of the day, you'll find time to do things you want. If you can't even do this, then my only answer is to do whatever you are asked, the best you can and feel proud of that.
4. New programs come and go. Some are disastrous, like Direct Instruction. There is a lot of money involved, as you have noticed. But continue to focus on helping children grow and prosper. You can't change the programs that are bought and the money spent, but you can focus on all the wonderful things you can do to improve the lives of children. Nothing is as important as that.
I hope I have been helpful. Your questions really require that I write a new book., but I have already done that.

Never let your hope die. If it does you will die, too, along with your students.


1st grade teacher - Texas

Thank you for taking the time

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Thank you for taking the time to read this. I would greatly appreciate your reply.
1) You suggested several ways to help with cynicism in education, such as communicating with those who affect you. However, what can you do when you are deadly afraid of that person? You must have read about Texas teachers walking out in droves due to the treatment they get from administrators, work overload, and difficult students (that the administrators don't want you to refer to the office, because it makes the school look bad).
2) What about the lack of autonomy that teachers have these days? The administrators expect you to teach using "research-proven strategies" and not your own creative devices. Year after year they command us "you must teach like this, for this long, at these intervals, etc." In Finland (where students thrive), it's the opposite. Teachers get to choose their textbooks and how to teach their subject matter. Plus, they get more time to plan their lessons.
How can one keep from being cynical, Dr. Curwin, when half of all the things I see are done for money and not for the benefit of the kids... new program this, new strategy this, new test this...$$$?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, if you have a chance.

Most sincerely,

1st Grade Teacher

Research and Marketing Specialist at AlphaBEST Education, Inc.

Cynicism is the enemy of hope

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This piece articulates one of the many culprits of a "failing" school. Teachers are the heart of a school and her students are the pulse. Each teacher must be alive with hope to keep the students beating strong and optimistic. Cynicism slows learning and dulls the luminosity of our children and must be plucked before it begins to take root.

Educational Consultant/Author, Southern California

Hope deferred...

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Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. Porverbs 13:12

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