A few months into my first year of teaching I had asked the assistant principal for help with a discipline problem. He scheduled a time to come into my classroom and when he arrived, I wrongfully assumed he was there to retrieve the student. He remained the entire period, watching me teach from the back of the classroom.
When the bell rang and all the students had left, including the one I thought he’d be taking with him, he sat me down and proceeded to talk pedagogy through the entire next period and into lunch. Although I was a teacher, I didn’t even know what the word “pedagogy” meant despite his numerous references. I can now say that this was simultaneously the worst and best feedback I’d ever received.
It was terrible, because as a first year, completely inexperienced teacher, I didn’t understand that the source of most discipline problems is not necessarily the student but an inextricable mix of classroom management, lesson planning, and learning environment. It was infuriating that my actions were being called into question over the student’s even though, ultimately, that is all over which I’ll ever have control. It was both humiliating and incomprehensible, because weren’t we here to discipline this boy?
For all those same reasons, I can now confidently provide that it was the best feedback I’d ever received. Even in frustrating classroom experiences I have learned to say to myself, “It’s the lesson plan, stupid”. That is my personal reminder to remain professional and focus not on my own hurt pride or ego, but my responsibility to build effective lessons in an efficient environment. It is both daunting and invigorating to know that my actions, and not the actions of my students, can affect an entire environment. While I sought targeted discipline, this need can be obsolete if I choose to accept the inherent control I possess in any interaction.
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