Dream Big, Dear Teacher

by Lisa Dabbs


When I think back on my work in my teacher preparation courses at the university, I remember that I always had BIG dreams.

That remained true as I received my first classroom position and finally had the opportunity to, as we say in our profession, truly make a difference. I worked hard with my students to make that happen. I wasn’t always as successful as I wanted to be and sometimes had some sleepless nights. For the most part, though, the feedback from my students families told me that I was on to something. That the “dream” I had in my classroom for their children to be successful, happy, life- long learners came through loud and clear.

Then I made the leap into administration and took those big dreams with me. However, they now took on a different form. Instead of the reach of the dream having four walls as a border, I saw a limitless potential. As a school principal, my dream was to touch every life on my campus in a profoundly positive manner and share the enthusiasm I had to transform lives, one child and family at a time. It was an act of courage that wasn’t always as easy as I thought it would be.

When we share our dreams and open ourselves up to share them with others, we take a risk. The risk that we may be laughed at, scoffed at or maybe even scorned. We soon see that the dream we thought could be shared by many may hardly even be shared by few.

The point that I want to share with all of you is that as I was carrying the dream for my school in my heart and work as a principal, I observed that many of my teachers had lost theirs. Many had lost the passion and exuberance they had once felt as they entered the profession. Lost the dream of what could be not only for themselves, but for the students in their care. Lost the hope they once had that they could make a difference.

I’m here to tell you: Don’t let that happen to you. No matter how bogged down you may feel by the state of our education system, the antidote is to dream big! If you are a veteran teacher, take the time to rest and reflect. Indulge in fantasy and wildly imagine the class or school that you’d like to teach in. Your reality may not embody the marvelous images that come to mind, particularly with the state of the economy and budget cuts upon us, but so what! Imagine how much better you could feel teaching with that powerful sense of positive expectation, despite the concerns of the past.

If you’re a new teacher, congratulations! You probably don’t have to struggle with the sense of loss or hopelessness that your veteran colleagues might have. You still feel fresh, excited and enthused! This is a good thing. Capture this feeling in a journal, video, or web-based curation tool. Don’t let it slip away. Grab it now while you still can, and nurture it every day.

You may say I’m a dreamer…that things have been how they’ve been for so long that it’s not worth the trouble. But, bringing those DREAMS alive again for yourself — and then for the students you will serve in this new school year — has got to be the first step. Don’t be the teacher that I frequently saw on my campuses, the one who had given up and was just going through the motions. Instead, be “the dream” and share those dreams with your colleagues! Work together, plan together, support each other. Refresh those lesson plans, use some cool new ed-tech tools, and imagine a better classroom/school experience for yourself and your students.

Dear Teacher: it’s time to dream BIG! In the words of John Lennon: You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. It’s time to bring the dreams alive again that you have for yourself. To believe in what can be, not what currently is. To remember how it felt to first walk into your classroom with high hopes for all your students and feel unstoppable! To know that you have somehow been chosen to lead, share, and collaborate in new and exciting ways with your students. To know that no matter what is in front of you, you can, and will, accomplish your goals…one dream at a time.

Lisa Dabbs

Lisa Dabbs is an educational consultant and former principal who lives in California. She is a Core Blogger at Edutopia.org, founder of New Teacher Chat #ntchat on Twitter and blogs about supporting new teachers at Teaching With Soul.