Friday, April 29, 2011

Week 28: The Worst of Classes

"Self-flagellation is part of teaching"

Every once in a while I teach a class that doesn't go well. Sometimes I know exactly what went wrong and how to fix the situation and other times the class becomes an embarrassing train-wreck that lacks any noticeable learning.

Yeah I had one of those classes this week.

The class started out pretty well but about halfway through things started falling apart. I couldn't keep the students engaged and I struggled to keep order in the classroom. I could see things start to fall apart but I didn't know what to do to turn things around and before things got too bad, thankfully class was over.

Cleaning up the classroom after my students left I was angry and frustrated, partially at some of my students but mostly at myself. In the past weeks I had tried many different things with the class and I though I was making progress, all that work seemed for nigh. It seemed like I tried everything with this class: new seating charts, different kinds of activities, a variation of lesson structures and involving other teachers in the class. I pride myself on being imaginative and inventive educator and reflecting on the class with no ides on how to fix the situation left me drained and angry.

After pacing around the school for 15 minutes trying to find some answers in the hallway, I went to one of the veteran teachers in the school for advice. Here’s a couple things she reminded me of:

-Teaching is hard, even after 30 years, teaching is still hard.

-Teaching is not about teaching what you want. It’s about teaching what students can learn and feel successful at. While many teachers because of pressures of curriculum and standardized testing can’t teach this way, it’s really the way education should be.

-Teaching is not about being the teacher you want to be but rather being the teacher your students need you to be.

After our discussion someone I felt excited about teaching that class again as opposed to dreading it. Sometimes you forget these things about teaching and while this discussion didn’t provide me with any answers it provided me with reassurance that I wasn’t alone in my struggle.

I think a lot of us have days like this at work when things feel horrible and knowing that people around us sometimes feels the same doesn’t make this emotion go away but somehow it doesn’t feel so bad.
AND you can’t forget that a certain level of self-flagellation is necessarily a bad thing. Just feel bad, and then get over it.

There’s always next week. 

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