Back to School Tips for Teachers

back-to-school-suppliesAs if passing on knowledge and sharing wisdom was innate, I was born with the educator gene. I come from a long line of teachers. My grandpa coached at the college level and my grandma taught high school English. My mom helped children get off to a good start as a kindergarten teacher and my dad guided them through the perils of adolescence in secondary school. My sisters taught in the Midwest, my sisters-in-law teach in France, and I am proud to say that my son enters the ranks in the Minnesota school system.

As teachers navigate the electronic age, we must adapt new tricks to capture students’ interest and hold their short attention spans. We rewrite curriculum, update files, correlate data, document schemes, track outcomes, learn how to differentiate and better motivate, following the latest educational theories, yet the essence of teaching never changes. If the teacher can’t connect, kids tune out.

The impact of good teaching is life long. Everyone remembers that favorite teacher. My mom recently received 80th birthday cards from former kinder and my dad still hears from old athletes that he coached. After leading the special education department at Yorkville High School my sister, Sue, retired last June.IMG951132

“Over the years, people have asked me what advice I would share with teachers entering the profession,” Sue said. “When I reflect back on my 35 years in education, these are the “lessons” that have served me best.”

We’re all in this together– No matter what job you do at your school, your contributions are important. It takes all of us working together, supporting one another, to help our students have the best possible educational experience and reach their full potential.

Pay it forward– Every single day we can touch a life and make a difference. And most of the time, we don’t even know when we do it. But that individual we influence will go on and maybe even years down the road pay it forward. That is the beauty of it!

It’s all about the relationships– Yeah, the subjects are important and the learning is essential, but when it comes down to it, I have found that the key to being a successful teacher is really all about the relationships that are nurtured.

Kindness matters–   I have never regretted treating someone with kindness. Like the lyrics to the song Nothing More by “The Alternate Routes “says “It is how we treat each other when the day is done. We are how we treat each other and nothing more.”

So as we say every September in my neck of the woods (France and the French speaking part of Switzerland.)

“Bonne Rentrée!” (welcome back)le_chat_14sept11_197

Teachers remember this crucial caveat.

Connection is the key to unlock minds; kindness is the ticket to open hearts.

Posted in education, social view.


  1. Lovely, Pat. I look back on my teaching days as a nursing faculty member and remember with fondness the great honor it was to touch lives. And, of course, I remember the teachers who made a difference in my life. Sue’s advice is perfect–“connection and kindness”. I’m forwarding this post on to my daughter, Leigh Ann, who is preparing for her new school year and also preparing her boys ( my “angel boys”) for 2nd and 4th grade. Have a wonderful school year!

    • I am so glad you passed this post on to Leigh Ann. I wish her well in her school year and the life long mission of raising her own children, your angel boys.

  2. I’d never heard the caveat — “Connection is the key to unlock minds; kindness is the ticket to open hearts.” — before, Pat, but it’s so appropriate. When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher. As I grew, I realized that wasn’t the profession for me, but I still have fond feelings toward those who mold the minds of our young people. THANK YOU just doesn’t seem sufficient!!

    • You never heard it because I just made it up, but it is truly the essence of teaching. Thanks for your cheers of encouragement as we tackle the first week back, which is always one of the toughest.

  3. I shared 20 years of my teaching career with your sister. Sue was an inspiration to all, fellow staff members and students alike. She made a difference in the lives of so many. Her words of advice are those she lived by and practiced through out her 35 years of teaching. The advice also applies to her daily relationships. The world would be such a better place if we practiced her words. But, one person applying them to one person will make a difference to that one.

    • It was my privilege to work beside you and learn from you, Peggy, but I appreciate your kind words. I look forward to seeing you more often now that I am retired. Wishing all my teaching friends and family a great start to the year.

  4. Sue lived everyday making a difference and treating everyone with kindness! I was her colleague for 29 years and I am honored to call her my friend! Love ya Sue!

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