WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Deb Dauer

Write on Fight on’s Teacher Spotlight closes out the 2016-2017 school year with a very special guest.

The “Mighty” Deb Dauer is a teacher, wife, mother, writer and fighter I’ve been admiring from a distance for some time now.

It’s an honor to have Deb’s story grace these pages. Her courage, honesty and resilience are absolute magic.

I want to thank Deb for sharing her story, for modeling on her blog “Not Going to be a Debbie Downer” what it means to “write on, fight on” and for her relentless dedication to her students and the educational enterprise.

Deb Dauer (seated) with (right to left) her husband Adam and children Ian, Gillian and Sarah.
…We would take a break from “the regularly scheduled curriculum” and give students the opportunity to have the whole day to give to others.

Deb Dauer is…

I am blessed to be a daughter, sister, wife to an amazing man, Mom to three incredible kids, friend, teacher, writer, community volunteer, and an advocate. In September of 2016 I also became a person with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Describe your teaching career…

I have taught first grade at Sharon School for the past ten years. Prior to that I taught first grade in Ewing for a year. I also taught self awareness skills through storytelling all over Mercer County schools for CampFire USA; taught pre K at Do & Learn nursery school; Hebrew school at Har Sinai Temple in Pennington.

What’s your favorite lesson to teach and why?

It is VERY difficult to pick just one. I love teaching about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Young kids are so receptive to his message. When we learn about Dr. King we spend some time learning about each other’s similarities AND differences. I love giving my students the opportunity to do watercolor portraits of a classmate and then creating a Venn diagram with that same classmate to see what they have in common and what makes them different, and learn that all of it is okay.

On a completely different subject I love bringing this crazy haired puppet out named Math Madge, who teaches the kids about the less than and greater than symbols. She speaks in a combination of French, Spanish, and English and always ends her visit with puppet kisses. The kids love to learn and laugh with her.

If, for one day, you were in charge of your school what would you do?

I would implement a day of service. We would take a break from “the regularly scheduled curriculum” and give students the opportunity to have the whole day to give to others. And if I really had unwieldy power, I would make standardized tests go away forever.

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

“There is nothing more important than being nice.” ~Adam Dauer (my husband) And I do often write it on my board.

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

I would want to be children’s book author and foster dogs.

What advice would you give to all new teachers?

I would suggest to new teachers that it is really important to listen, and slow down. When you come out of school you are so gung-ho about jumping in and implementing all these ideas that you have been saving up for at least four years. But you are becoming a member of a team. A team of established colleagues that can teach you important skills; a team of the larger community that you are becoming a part of; a team with your students’ families who know these kids a lot better than you do. All of these team members have so much to offer if you listen.

If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second best thing?

Establishing relationships, with fellow teachers and all of the other fabulous colleagues you get to learn from on a daily basis. Establishing relationships with the families of students – sometimes getting to know them over many years as you teach all of the siblings! As these relationships grow you learn about different cultures and religions, family dynamics and philosophies, and these relationships in turn help you grow as a person.

Who inspires you?

I think my take on this has changed since I have been diagnosed with ALS. At this point in my life I would say I find inspiration in those that can remain positive in the face of great adversity. For example, my friend who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer yet still goes to work every day as an oncology nurse; or my kids who now live in an ever changing reality of having to help care for their Mom, but still laugh, and go to school, and maintain a normal life. The everyday people who do everyday things when the odds are against them – that inspires me.

My classroom superpower is… because…

The magic that takes over my classroom and my kids when I am reading a really good picture book.

Follow Deb and her inspiring journey with ALS at notgonnabeadebbiedowner@blogspot.com

The Teacher Spotlight will spend its summer sleeping in, watching high-caloric daytime tv and hanging by the pool. The series will resume in September and feature more awesome educators.

Your summer homework– if you know an awesome educator and would like to see them featured next school year on the Teacher Spotlight Series please contact Jay at writeonfighton@gmail.com

My Advice to Young Adults about Work (or Why I Want to Pee My Pants )

It’s graduation season.

And every June, I get asked by soon-to-be high school graduates big questions about work.

“How do you know your doing the right work?”

“How do you find work you’re passionate about?”

“How do you avoid unhappiness and complacency?”

Though I don’t consider myself a beacon of wisdom on such matters (I’m still learning myself), I’m always flattered and (always) a bit stunned by the demands of these questions.

And despite having graduated high school almost 20 years ago and am now 20 years older than most of my students, I’m still wrestling down a response.

But here’s my latest attempt to explain what I know about work.

Bladder Problems

Dylan, my 3 year old son, is stretched on the living room floor playing with his trucks, pushing them across the carpet, parking them next to a row of couch pillows.

He makes truck sounds. Honks and beeps and low rumbling growls. He is lost in his little world, playing and imaging, when his eyes snap suddenly wide.

He jumps to his feet, holds himself and launches into some full-body toddler tribal dance.

“I have to go potty, I have to go potty!

“Well go Dylan!”

Still holding himself, Dylan turns, runs across the living room, breaks out beyond sight as the patter of his little rushing feet trails away to the bathroom.

Parents of young children bare witness to the sudden need-to-pee-pneumonia all the time.

Children get so lost in play, so focused on the present that the pangs erupting from their bladder are ignored until the very last moment.

This moment fascinates me — that a mind can be so enraptured, so focused that it’s ignorant to what is going on in the body.

They might have a bumbling vocabulary and their nose always drippy but children possess the stuff of Buddhist monks.

When I reach the bathroom, Dylan is standing at the front of the toilet with his Paw Patrol underwear lassoed around his ankles. He’s head bowed, his eyes studying the tile.

“Dylan, did you go potty?”

He flinches. His shoulders inch closer to his ears. His eyes refuse to look.

Dylan did you go potty?

He slowly, sheepishly looks up , his eyes ache with tears, “No. I peed myself.”

Why More Adults Should Pee Themselves

Sure, it’s hyperbolic, but stay with me.

I love watching my children lost in absolute play, seemingly ignorant to both the outside and inside world. It’s amazing that children can become so invested in play that they will ignore their screaming bladder. ( I hate to brag but a few months ago Dylan’s efforts earned him a tract infection.)

From what I’ve seen, most adults are bored. They find no wonder in their work. So they fill that void with frivolous things, destructive behavior and unnecessary drama.

As adults, we pine to find good work. Work so curious and engaging that we become constructively lost. Work that we joyously return to again and again.

Listen, my analogy may sound sophomoric (and clearly I’m not advocating bladder infections) but it’s absolutely critical for young adults to find good work that inspires deep contemplation, deep play — the kind of work that is hard to walk away from, not because of the money or convenience or ease, but because you simply the love the essence of it.

My advice for all those who will be turning the tassel and contemplating their future profession — if you find work that is the igniter of imagination, the destroyer of clocks, the antagonist of bladders, work that reminds you of what it was like to be lost on the living room floor, congratulations — you found your work.

Be well,


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