Goal: Reach Out

Part of the Goals 2010 Challenge Series, Goal 12

One of the best teacher trainings I attended had nothing to do with technology. Instead, the speaker related how much a smile and a gesture can make a difference in a student’s life. He told an anecdote of how he was warned by his principal of his bad mood. He made a change. He stood at the door and began greeting every student who came in with a handshake and a smile. At first, he admitted it was insincere. The act itself was just in response to getting in trouble and there were some students he really didn’t appreciate having in his classes, yet he told each one this as they walked out the door. You know which students, the misbehaved children that many teachers fear. One day, one of these students wrote the teacher a thank you note. This student was contemplating suicide and had told himself that if one person had wanted him around he wouldn’t do it. After this, the handshakes became hi-fives and the smile sincere.

The Challenge

When I began this challenge, it was a way for me to jump start myself in accomplishing my own goals, some which I have been trying to accomplish for over a decade. When I first began using social media less than a year ago, I noticed that I was beginning to achieve my goals and set higher challenges for myself. This was at a time I was depressed. I had suddenly moved to a foreign country, did not know the language, and had given up my favorite job in the world. Life happens to us and having a support system makes the difference. Everyday, I look forward to a kind gesture from my Personal Learning Network (PLN). It can be a song on Blip.FM,  a comment on Facebook or my blog, a DM on Twitter, a Skype call, a nomination for an award, and the list goes on.

Your reaching out has made the difference in my life. Reaching out makes a difference in your students’ lives.

Recently, I read Marti Side’s great post, Check Yes or No,  where she related how a student thanked her for being the first teacher willing to help him. This was my response to her:

Sadly, I am not surprised by his experience. I ran a creative writing program at at-risk schools and alternative schools in my city. They had the lowest reading scores and faced incredibly difficult situations in their personal lives. I thought the teachers would have a passion for helping these students. Instead, I frequently saw the opposite. The teachers called them stupid and told them they would amount to nothing. The principals walked the hallways and ignored the teachers yelling. I know what it is to grow up in a really poor area, I went to an at risk school. I was fortunate to have very loving teachers but how about my friends who had the ones who were burnt out by the job? Teachers have such an impact on students. A kind smile and help goes a long way. This is one reason I’m so passionate about building a support network for teachers. The less that are burnt out by the system then perhaps the more teachers we will have that are passionate and will make a difference in their students’ lives!

Reaching Out to Teachers

For this reason, I am passionate about helping educators build a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Perhaps, we can help burnt out teachers by reaching out with a nice gesture online and offline? Perhaps, we can just listen to them and offer encouragement? Perhaps, we can introduce them to a strong PLN who engages, supports, listens, shares, and collaborates? Perhaps, we will ignite passion in them so they can profoundly impact the students they impact year after year?

Let’s face reality, teachers who are burnt out will always be in the system. Teaching is challenging. Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and under appreciated. We are the passionate ones, can we create a movement of passionate teachers? I believe we can. Let’s start by reaching out in some small way today with the long-term goal of reaching out in big ways for the rest of our careers.


Reach out to your students, teachers in your schools, or to members of your PLN.

You may want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

If you are new to the 30 day Goal challenge, then you may want to read this post with more details!

This is goal 12 of this series! If you’d like to join the challenge, please read this post!

Don’t forget to leave a comment that you accomplished this goal using the hashtag #30Goals!

Care to share your experiences with reaching out?

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell), Facebook.com/ShellyTerrell, and on her blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at https://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/presentations


  1. Just yesterday I sent out an e-mail to the staff at my school offering to teach them all about using different internet tools to communicate and collaborate with other teachers. I was talking about it with another teacher after school, and he asked why I was doing that, and if I’m going to be paid for it. I told him I don’t expect to be paid, I just thought it was time to share what I’d learned.

    • Dan,

      Thanks for sharing. People asked me if I get paid for this, including family. Like you said, it’s not about expecting payment, it is about the sharing. Thank you for sharing with your school!

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve lurked on this blog for a long time and you challenges have given me the courage to take the next step!

    I was an elementary teacher for 20+years and have become the librarian/technology facilitator in two districts. It’s been a huge change. One of the things I’ve missed is my support group of colleagues. All the little knowns that grow up between people who work side-by-side for many years.

    I’ve worked really hard at reaching out and making new connections with staff members. And I’ve realized how far a pleasant word or a smile goes.

    We all need cheerleaders who notice that we are trying. But, it feels even better when you are the cheerleader!!

  3. It does feel good to share and encourage others! Many in our profession, with the increasing demands on our time and with shrinking resources, are feeling discouraged. We need to keep encouraging, learning together, and leaning on each other for the little verbal “pick-me-ups” that we all need. Thanks so much for being willing to share your expertise. I have really come to rely on your tweets!

  4. I work in a small Outreach program in Stony Plain, population 9000. Still, I make it a point to connect with every student on site everyday, and every staff member at least once. For some, staff and students alike, that one contact may be the thing that keeps them coming back tomorrow. With at-risk students, connection is the first order of business.

    • Todd,

      I wish there were more educators like you working with at-risk students. My heart broke when working with them because they go through so much and have to deal with really grown up problems. Thank you for all you do in your community!

  5. Even just saying “good morning” in an upbeat way (fake it if you have to) will eventually start to make others feel more connected to you.

  6. Thanks for this moving post, Shelly!! I believe all the values you mention can be summarised with the term “respect”. If we respect our students without considering their personalities, they can feel it and what we, teachers, receive is respect from them. Respect doesn’t mean “power” or “authority”. Many of my students complain because some teachers use “power” to try to control them and avoid misbehaviour. However, I believe that making others feel afraid doesn’t mean they respect you. The secret lies in being respected not because you threaten your students but because your students consider that you deserve their respect. And that applies to everyhting in life.

  7. Shelly,

    Wonderful post! I have been a classroom teacher for many years before moving on to the realm of e-learning and ID. I strongly believe that a teacher can make a difference to a student. Even if I make a difference to one student, my profession would be worth it.

    This post reminded me of an incident that took place a month back. I will narrate it in my blog. Thank you again for motivating us. We need bloggers like you. 🙂

  8. Shelly, this post brought me to tears. We are so quick to forget the way that our actions can impact the life of another. Not only can we have a positive impact on the students we teach, we can also have a positive impact on the families of our students, on our coworkers, on our PLN. These blessings we share will not go unnoticed, we may never hear of their impact but the act is further reaching than we may know. Thank you!

Leave a Reply to marsid Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *