We are all human and teaching is an extremely challenging job.
No one would dispute that.
That isn’t to say, those of us who are passionate about what we do don’t love the thrill of a challenge, but even with that love comes frustration.
When teachers are dealing with so many personalities all the time, as well as trying to manage their lives outside of work, bad days can happen.
So if any of the following has happened to you, you aren’t alone and it doesn’t make you a bad teacher:
- You got frustrated with the apathy of a student or a group of students and raised your voice to try to engage them or hurry them back to work
- You said something, that you immediately felt sorry about saying
- You were overwhelmed with paperwork or administrative duties and didn’t plan the most engaging lesson
- Planned a lesson that became an epic fail and rather than stop the wreckage, you let it go to completion committed to the plan
- You allowed students to work from a book for a day or do other busy work because you didn’t feel like teaching or you couldn’t focus
- You took care of personal business on school time
- You had an attitude and got really upset about something that would normally be inconsequential
Great teachers have bad days too. I had a lot of them while I was going through my divorce. Because I am already so sensitive, it was harder to roll with the punches. It’s extremely challenging to have major life events happening and never let it affect us while we teach.
For the most part, we do a good job of keeping life separate, but we all have our moments.
Here are some short anecdotes from teachers in the field about “bad moments":
Rick Bray, Chemistry teacher said, "One year a S made a snarky comment, which I took the wrong way. I started ripping into him and as I turned around I saw his grin disappear into fear. I apologized later because it was clear he was joking, and I misunderstood. Normal day = LOL>" Mark Barnes, author shared the some thoughts about comparing student work and the need for a quick apology. Ellie Herman shares her bad moment where things got out of control in Valerie Strauss's article, Are you a truly bad teacher? Here's how to tell Belle Beth Cooper shares Rita Pierson's Ted Talk and some tips based on her amazing positivity. Watch the Ted Talk, it will change your perspective.
Here are some tips for turning bad times into better ones:
- Apologize promptly. If you raise your voice or say something that is uncharacteristic, say you’re sorry. Do it publicly and allow students to see that grown-ups make mistakes and as long as they are handled appropriately, it will be okay.
- Don’t beat up on yourself when a lesson goes sour. They can’t all be winners. Take the time to reflect and figure out why it didn’t work out and do better next period or the next day.
- Remember that tomorrow is always a new day. Start fresh. Give second chances not only to your students each day, but to yourself as well.
- Give yourself permission to take a break from other duties that distract from your teaching. It will all get done, it just may not get done right now.
- Accept help when it’s offered. People can read your hard time, so don’t be ashamed or afraid to accept help when close friends or colleagues ask.
- Ask for help when you need it. None of us are working alone and many folks are there for you as long as you ask. Believe it or not, students are really good at being empathetic if we let them be.
- Do better tomorrow. Acknowledge the bad day and move on as quickly as possible. Getting into a rut and repeating these behaviors can be seriously detrimental to your relationships with kids and your job.
Showing students our human side is essential for developing relationships. Although they may not believe that we have lives outside of school, most of them can identify with the inherent challenges life provides. It can be a very valuable learning experience for everyone if we model how to bounce back from these setbacks.
We are all allowed to have challenges but being honest and reflective about them is essential to minimizing the damage of a bad day.
Have you ever had a bad day that really spawned a great deal of learning? How were you able to turn a negative into a positive?
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.