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Articles for Teachers and Educators

Prof. Joe has written more than 150 articles for more than a dozen print and on-line publications, including, Empower Magazine,, and Student Leader Magazine. Here are some of his most requested articles for new teachers, including some from a few of his friends. Enjoy!


Teachers Must Earn Respect

by Professor Joe Martin


Warning: If you are a new teacher, please do not sabotage your career by making the biggest mistake most teachers make when they first start teaching. What mistake is that you ask? It’s being a hypocrite. Ouch! I know that’s harsh, but allow me to explain.

One of the most common questions I get asked during my teacher training workshops is, “What can we do to get our students to be more respectful?” In other words, many educators complain that many students talk back, misbehave, and “act out” with little regard for the teacher and/or his or her classmates.

My first response to this question is, “What have you done to earn their respect”?


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Teach in the Now, Not in the Later

by Professor Joe Martin


In the highly successful movie, “The Great Debaters” starring Denzel Washington, a student was defending her argument for the desegregation of schools. She made one comment that made such an impact on me, that I now challenge my 12-year old with it every time I drop him off to school in the morning.

The confident and determined young woman stated, “Now is always the right time to do the right thing.” Very powerful words indeed.

I’ve been in education for more than 15 years now, and I’ve also had the privilege to work in Corporate America as well as for the Federal Government. However, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a “system” that is more adept at “putting off” the right thing to do than the public school system.


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How to go from Thinking to Life Change

by Dr. John C. Maxwell


One of my all-time favorite authors, John Maxwell, offers some great advice I think we all could and should take advantage of as teachers – and that’s how to change our lives with our thoughts. Maxwell’s expertise is in the area of leadership, and as teachers, I believe we are leaders in our classroom.

As educators, we constantly look for ways to make a difference in the lives of young people while struggling to maintain a life of our own. And with the constant demands of students, parents, and administration, it’s easy to find ourselves holding onto a bag of “good intentions” without having a strategy for implementation.

Maxwell outlines six steps to help us transform our thoughts real life change. With his permission, here’s an excerpt from one his recent articles:


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Medicate to Educate

by Professor Joe Martin


Teachers often ask me how I manage to stay so motivated as an educator. I used to find the question odd, until I realized all of the pressures, frustrations, and disappointments we face every week as teachers.

I often joke with new and beginning teachers that there are only two reasons why anyone would become a teacher, you’re either ‘called’ to teach or you’re just plain ‘crazy’ to teach.

Because my thinking was, who would choose to do this job (teach) if he or she wasn’t “called” to do it? Only a crazy person. They laugh, but I think there’s some real truth to that.


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A Little Change Will Do You Good!

by Professor Joe Martin


One of my favorite singers, Cheryl Crow wrote a song a few years ago entitled, “Change Will Do You Good!” It soared to top of the pop charts with its upbeat rhythm and catchy chorus. But the truth of the matter is, how many of us truly believe that change is good?

If we closely examine change – especially in the teaching profession – it’s usually accompanied by a lot of stress. New policies, new administration, new procedures, new expectations, new requirements, and even new students, all sound good on the surface, but rarely “feel” good to our bodies when we encounter them.

We all know how personal life changes can knock our lives out of whack and put us out of balance (from an unexpected debt to an unanticipated death), but when you add n-the-job changes to the mix, it’s darn near impossible to bear.


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Don’t Pay Attention

by Professor Joe Martin


Do you realize we only hear what we pay attention to? I know you're probably saying, "Duh, no kidding." But don't take this simple truth for granted. See, the real question is "What are you paying attention to?" Allow me to explain...

If you ask the average person in education (or any Jane or John Doe on the street), "What do you think about the state of education today?" More than likely you'll "hear" something that's equal to a PR person's worst nightmare.

You'd hear things like:

"Teachers are terribly underpaid."

"Students are so disrespectful."

"Parents are not involved enough."

"No one cares about teachers."

"Legislators and school districts are out of touch with reality."

"Students don't care and don't want to learn."

"All they (schools and politicians) care about are test scores."

Now, I'm not here to debate whether or not some or all of these issues are true (or even why they exist), but rather to question if YOU are paying attention to what you're hearing.


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I Owe, You Owe, We Owe

by Professor Joe Martin


A student once asked me, “Mr. Martin, why do you care so much about us?”

I guess I need to put this question into context. My class (as a whole) had just done horribly on one of my tests. After apologizing for letting them down as their teacher and for obviously not preparing them properly, I used the entire class period to solicit suggestions on improving my teaching methods.

It was obvious to my students that I was really disappointed in myself as a result of their performance. In other words, they could see I was taking it personally.

After vowing to do better and to dedicate myself even more to helping them improve their efforts, one of my students asked the question, “Why do you care so much about us?”

The question was implying that I was taking their failure too personal. But I couldn’t see how I could take it any other way; I consider their success my success, and I consider their failure, well…you know.


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Imitate to Motivate

by Professor Joe Martin


They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Well if that’s true, this month I want you to NOT be yourself; I want you to pretend to be someone else. I know this is totally opposite of what you’ve been taught. “Don’t imitate anyone, just be yourself.” Well, that’s good advice, but it’s not totally accurate advice.

I once read a sign that said, “Be yourself, but only better!” I love that quote, and that’s exactly what I want you to be this month…better. But I want you to imitate and model someone who’s “better” than you (in the classroom).

As much success as you’ve already achieved (and I congratulate you), I want you to think back and remember your favorite teacher (i.e., the one who inspired you to teach and set the bar for what you considered a “good teacher” to be).


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More Who, Less What?

by Professor Joe Martin


One of best lessons I ever learned in my early years of teaching was to “focus on WHO we teach, not just WHAT we teach.”

To some I know this concept sounds somewhat foreign, because ever since we were in college (preparing to be a teacher), subject mastery has always been the primary focus.

Very few classes prepared us for unruly children, immature middle schoolers, or disrespectful teenagers. Yes, I admit, as a former professor, the higher education system needs to be revamped. We’ve failed to adequately prepare our teachers for our wonderful profession.

However, in spite of the inadequacies in the system, I try to teach incoming teachers (including seasoned ones) the aforementioned philosophy – “It’s not just about WHAT we teach, but rather WHO we teach.” Now don’t get me wrong, WHAT we teach is vitally important to our students’ success, as well as our school’s success. But sacrificing the WHO for the WHAT is just plain criminal. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Well, I would go even a step farther by saying, students also need to know WHY you care.

With the increased emphasis on standardized test scores, students are starting to be treated more like “things” rather than human beings. And this has to stop. I believe one of the many reasons teachers struggle to stay motivated in the classroom is because the system seems to reward and acknowledge “test performance” more so than “true passion.”

I truly believe the success I’ve been able to enjoy with my students (from the gifted to the incarcerated – I’ve worked with them all) is largely due to the fact that I teach the student, not the subject. Yes, I want my students to learn the material, but more importantly, I want them to know they’re loved, even if they don’t learn the material or pass “a test.” I know that may be hard for some educators to swallow, but I know 15 years from now, nobody will remember my students’ test scores, but my students WILL remember me.

So start asking yourself, “Do you care more about your students succeeding in school or in life?” I’ll let you decide what you think the right answer SHOULD be. But remember, nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” So teach with passion, and remember to practice what you teach!




Teach Like it’s Christmas

by Professor Joe Martin


When it comes to teaching, I’m often criticized for my unbridled enthusiasm. I’ve been accused of being “child-like” and somewhat “giddy” at the start of every new school year.

While most teachers moan and groan about how short their summer was and how long the school year will be, I’m called the “weird one” because I think the summer is too long and the school year is too short.

After I prove to my colleagues I’m not on drugs, I explain to them the reason for my unbelievable joy.

First of all, I explain to them (other educators) that we’re not just teachers. I tell them, “We get paid to unwrap OTHER people’s gifts.” Allow me to explain.


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