Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Joys of Teaching

Yesterday I had the honor of being asked to come speak to some awesome middle school 6th graders about social responsibility and why we founded Friends of Texas Public Schools. Yes, I got to spend the entire day teaching in the classroom again!!! Notice my choice of words just then. "Got to." Not "had to." That's the way I've always felt about teaching. For me it's never been a "had to" kind of "job."

However, I discovered that after spending the last few years outside the regular classroom (I still and always will think of myself as a teacher, my classrooms are now filled with adults and are all over the state, but still...a teacher) there were a few things that I had forgotten about the day to day joys of being a public school classroom teacher. Most of them are things that only a teacher really understands and are sometimes frighteningly consistent throughout our public school system.

For instance, the smell. Now some of you probably just cringed. It's not a bad thing! Not an odor exactly, it just smells like school. For those of us who have spent the better part of our years in school, it's comforting in a way. Like the smell of home, a place where you "fit."

The sounds. It's loud, but in a good way. There is something about that sound of excited chatter and slamming lockers that makes me happy in a way I can't describe. The happy-to-see-you greetings from students..."Morning Mrs. Milder." I spent my career in high school and one of my favorite things was getting out of my car in the mornings and hearing the drum line practicing before school. The sounds of the over-worked copy machine, the phone ringing in the front office, bells ringing every 55 minutes or so. Great sounds.

The people. Being with colleagues that feel like family. These are "your people," the ones who are wired up like you and understand you like no one else, because they too feel called to be a part of this craziness called teaching.

The routine. Again...not a bad thing. We come in, the bell rings, announcements, pledges, attendance....Greatness I tell you! It's been my experience working with kids that they often crave that routine and the structure it provides, it's comforting for them as well.

There are other things too:
Adjusting the thermostat in your room with an unbent paper clip...or trying to!
Being locked out of the building and banging on that skinny window in the door with your car keys while praying a custodian hears you and lets you in.
Saving every toilet paper roll and egg carton because you might need them for an art project.
Keeping your "good" pens and notepads under lock and key.
Finding the exact middle of an ABC line so that it will be exactly centered over your board.
Standing in your roller chair to put up your ABC line because there is not a ladder to be found.
Saving old socks because they make great white board erasers.
Knowing the precise time(s) each day when you can go to the bathroom.
Being so excited the night before school starts that you can't sleep.
Tracing around a kid's foot on cardboard and going on your conference period to buy him a pair of shoes because it's freezing out and his toes are poking through the pair he's got.
Tearing up watching a kid walk down the hall carrying his cap and gown.
Watching "the light come on" when a student finally "gets it."
Finding a Post-it note on your desk written by the kid who makes you want to rip your hair out that says "Mrs. Milder kicks butt!"

When I walk through the halls of my own children's school I'm wearing my "mom hat", but my "teacher glasses." And, I LOVE what I see. I am grateful every day for the experiences that my children are having in Texas Public Schools. It gives me great joy as someone's mom to know that the people in our schools want to be there and love their jobs. ALL aspects of the job..the smells, the noises, the highs, the lows, the frustrations and celebrations. But most of all...I know they love my kids and will do whatever it takes to see them learn and be successful.

Lately when I watch the news and follow all the budget talks and articles about teacher layoffs, these are the things I think about. Not the consequences of using the Rainy Day Fund, or numbers and dollars signs. It's far more personal for me than that. They are the people who loved and nurtured me through my own public school experience, who taught beside me and shared their knowledge and experience, who will spend their own money to purchase the supplies needed to make sure their students learn and who are loving and nurturing my own children through their school experience.

Next month is Teacher Appreciation. I urge you to look up "that" teacher and give him/her an update about yourself (I guarantee they'd love to know!) and say THANKS. It'll mean more to them now than ever!


Follow Leslie on Twitter @FOTPSambassador

P.S. Thanks to my awesome teacher friends for sharing their #thingsonlyateachergets on twitter :) You guys ROCK!

Monday, February 28, 2011

How awesome is this??!!!

Austin, TX - A Texas school district superintendent sent an open letter to Texas legislators pleading for help by tailoring it after the famous William Barret Travis letter right before the fall of the Alamo.

John Kuhn, superintendent of Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, sent the letter in regards to Gov. Perry's possible billion dollar budget cuts to public school funding.

Here is the text of his (Alamo letter) :


I am besieged, by a hundred or more of the Legislators under Rick Perry. I have sustained a continual Bombardment of increased high-stakes testing and accountability-related bureaucracy and a cannonade of gross underfunding for 10 years at least and have lost several good men and women. The ruling party has demanded another round of pay cuts and furloughs, while the schoolhouse be put to the sword and our children’s lunch money be taken in order to keep taxes low for big business. I am answering the demand with a (figurative) cannon shot, and the Texas flag still waves proudly from our flagpole. I shall never surrender the fight for the children of Perrin.

Then, I call on you my legislators in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy of public schools is declaring that spending on a shiny new high-stakes testing system is “non-negotiable”; that in essence, we must save the test but not the teachers. The enemy of public schools is saying that Texas lawmakers won’t raise 1 penny in taxes in order to save our schools.

If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and fight for the kids in these classrooms like an educator who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his community. Make education a priority!

With all due respect and urgency,

John Kuhn


Perrin-Whitt CISD

Below is the text of William Travis Barret's famous Alamo letter:

Fellow citizens and compatriots;
I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna. I have sustained a continual Bombardment and cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man. The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken. I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch. The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily and will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country. Victory or Death.

William Barret Travis
Lt. Col. Comdt.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sparking a Revolution

As a former government teacher and lover of history, I am fascinated with the American Revolution. In the days just before Egyptians began protesting in Tahrir Square, my 5th grade son came home with questions about the Declaration of Independence. We sat there in the living room lingering over the beautifully written words of past patriots. Just a few days later we watched news from around the world of another group of patriots clamoring for the right to be heard..."...whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of People to alter or to abolish it..." I challenge you to re-read the Declaration of Independence while thinking of the images you've seen from Egypt in the past month. Goosebumps.

In my quest for information about Egypt, I stumbled upon an article in Fast Company titled, How Social Media Acclerated the Uprising in Egypt. Give it a read when you have a chance. We have heard a great deal about the roles that Twitter and Facebook played in Egypt. So much so, that the government shut down the Internet! Wow. Social Media played a powerful role in bringing about a revolution, a change in government for a nation the size of Egypt!!

If social media can help bring change like that to an entire nation, shouldn't we be using it to spark our own revolution and change regarding what people think about our public schools??

Setting up a Twitter or Facebook account takes a matter of seconds. Using those status updates and tweets to let people know how great your job is as an educator, or how awesome your child's school is, or something great that is going on in Texas public schools, is a powerful way to get those positive messages out. And, we need to shout out the wonderful achievements of our public schools now more than ever. Optimism is contagious and if we use it and social media, then maybe, just maybe we can spark a revolution that will restore the faith and PRIDE in our public schools that they so deserve.

You can follow me (Leslie Milder) on Twitter--@FOTPSambassador


Monday, January 24, 2011

It's that time again!!

Breathe deeply my friends. It is here. The 82nd Texas legislative session has begun...and, it's brought with it much fear and angst over the future of our public schools. Everywhere I've been in the last few weeks I've heard educators and parents speak with concern and trepidation over what may happen to our public schools this session. It is a time of concern and one where "We the People" need to be paying attention.

I urge you to plug in and follow what is going on in Austin. As always we would never influence you on how to vote, or what to support, we just want to encourage you to educate yourselves, know what is out there and form your own opinions.

The easiest way to follow and track the progress of bills is to visit Texas Legislature Online at www.capitol.state.tx.us. This is the official site of the Texas Legislature and allows you to set up your own account and track the bills that interest you. You can even set it up so that you are notified by email when a bill has had a change in status. To keep your finger on the pulse of the legislative session minute by minute, I recommend www.quorumreport.com. A portion of this site is avalable only to subscribers, but there is enough free content to let you know what is the current "buzz" of the day. Another good place to check out is www.backmic.com. Here you can vote on how you feel about specific bills and even leave comments about them.

Now more than ever it is important that those of us in the profession have an understanding about what our public schools are facing and be able to explain it to those who may ask. Don't be afraid to communicate with your elected officials. They are faced with a daunting task this session so remember to do it in a professional, respectful way. Establishing good relationships between those of us in education and our elected officials is essential to doing what is right for our kids.

Legislative Blessings,


Monday, November 15, 2010

Thankful for Texas Public Schools

It's that "thankful" time of year again! The one where I find myself counting my blessings a little more often. And, in this tough economic time, I've found myself time and time again being thankful for having a job when so many we know are out of work. But, when I think about being an educator, simply having a job and a paycheck doesn't really seem to sum up just how thankful I am for the role Texas public schools have played in my life. As a second generation teacher, public schools were providing for me long before I even knew what school was! I am thankful for the 12 years I spent in Texas public schools receiving an education that has served me well in college and beyond. I am thankful for the awesome Texas public school teachers that went above and beyond for me as a student in the classroom and as a fellow teacher. And now, I am thankful to that same public school system and it's educators for providing my children with the same quality education and positive school experience. I am proud and THANKFUL to the public schools of Texas.

I want to issue to you all a "Thanksgiving Challenge" this year. As you spend the day with family, share with them why you are thankful to be an educator, a product of public school, or a public school parent. Share a story about your kids or colleagues, a particular success or achievement that you are proud of this year, and how much you love your job in education. Let's make sure that those who love us know that we are thankful and proud of the role we play in our Texas schools.

Thanksgiving Blessings,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Experiencing the Underground Railroad...Elementary School Style

I have the opportunity to serve on our school district’s education foundation and I love it! A couple of weeks ago I was invited to Celia Hays Elementary to see one of our grants in action. Wow. Was I ever amazed.

The grant involved every 5th grader and was titled “What if the Underground Railroad had GPS?” This was the culmination of an in depth study on the Underground Railroad. The students used GPS devices to find geo-caches that had been hidden at locations all over school property. The students worked together in small groups to follow the Underground Railroad to freedom. Each location had information leading them to the next location, a journaling topic and obstacles that had to be overcome. It integrated social studies, science, language arts, math, music….100% cross curricular.

The final location, where the students made it to freedom? The school flagpole of course! Waiting for them there was Harriet Tubman. A school staff member, dressed in period costume, met the students and led them to freedom. Goosebumps!! Those students didn’t just learn about the Underground Railroad, they experienced it. Truly innovative teaching at its very best.

Not only was I speechless over the lesson and its execution, but I was amazed at what great ambassadors the staff were for their school.

When I arrived I was greeted in the front office by the school secretary and the principal, who both welcomed me. One of the fifth grade teachers came and escorted me down to the fifth grade classrooms so she could show me the work the students had done in preparation for the activity. She then directed me out to the playground where they were searching for the geo-caches. Every teacher I encountered was so excited, appreciative and full of great things to say about their students and their campus.

I love opportunities that enable me to see first hand that critics of public schools are dead wrong! As a member of this awesome profession, I feel it’s my honor and my duty to share these achievements with everyone I encounter…my family, my friends, at church, on the soccer fields, in line at the grocery store. It’s high time those of us with formal connections to public schools be vocal about the success we witness.

As this school year comes to an end, let’s take moment to celebrate all the strengths and achievements that 2009-2010 has brought to the children of Texas.



Monday, March 29, 2010


Welcome to our blog! We are so excited to have a place to celebrate the strengths and achievements of our Texas public schools.

A few introductions are probably in order. My husband Scott and I (Leslie) founded Friends of Texas Public Schools in 2004 because we were sick and tired of false and misleading news reports about our Texas schools. As someone who is proud to be a product of Texas public schools, proud to be a second generation Texas public school teacher and the proud parent of 3 Texas public school children...I was sick and tired of being PICKED ON! The truth is that our public schools are achieving more today than ever before and it's high time that those of us who witness the great things happening in our schools stand up and SAY something!

This blog is where we hope to do just that. So, buckle up and stay tuned!