Teaching Opinion

Recovering From a Bad Lesson

By Starr Sackstein — March 23, 2017 2 min read
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Today I monopolized the lesson. There is no way to sugarcoat it. I have the most understanding co-teacher in the world and I felt like I really disappointed her. Even worse, I feel like I robbed my students of the chance to really engage with the content we were trying to teach.

Sometimes as teachers we get on a roll and before we know it, we’ve said too much. We feel like we’re doing kids a service at the time, really digging deep, but what we are actually doing is removing some productive struggle that will enhance their learning processes.

After all, if someone is going to do it for them, why should they themselves?

Wait time has always been something that I’ve struggled with, especially if I’m passionate about the topic and the students aren’t meeting me halfway. It’s almost like the silence paralyzes me and I can’t help but fill that uncomfortable stagnation with my own words. Getting so wrapped up in the moment that I just go for it.

Reflecting on the class, I feel a little embarrassed and ashamed. Seeing as I’m supposed to know better and I do know better but it happened nonetheless.

After class, I debriefed with my co-teacher and as usual she was very patient. Having modeled the behavior I should have practiced myself which would have been sitting outside the student circle and making observations and notes about their discussion.

Needless to say, it’s a learning lesson. So much of teaching is. After 16 years, I hold myself to ridiculously high standards and when I don’t meet them I struggle to forgive myself, but I’m going to try to let it go.

Teaching is an extremely challenging job and so many circumstances can cloud our judgment. We are human, even though sometimes we think we should know better. Humans make mistakes and mistakes don’t have to be bad. When we practice using a growth mindset, we show students how to move on from setbacks.

Three periods later upon further reflection and continued conversation with my co-teacher and peers, I’m ready to wipe the slate clean and start again tomorrow. Instead of allowing the way I feel to disrupt the rest of my day, I must let it go.

So the take away from this morning’s pseudo-disaster is I need to slow down and be cognizant of my presence in my classes and ask myself the following questions moving forward:

  • How much of the talking am I doing?
  • Is it all necessary?
  • How well am I reading the room?
  • Am I listening when students speak?
  • Am I adjusting accordingly to meet their needs and not my own?

Okay, so it was a bad class. I’m not going to die. Now that I’ve recognized, acknowledged and reflected on where I went wrong, I can make it better tomorrow. That’s the best part of teaching, there is always a chance to learn and do it better, every period of every day. Ironically, I don’t think my students thought it was bad, but I think I’ll still apologize tomorrow.

Bouncing back is sometimes hard for me, so I feel grateful that I’m not harboring on it today. After all, the other students I’m working with aren’t in that first class and they shouldn’t suffer too just because I had a bad moment. This day can still be a success.

How do you help yourself bounce back from a bad class or incident in school? Do you have any tips you want to share? Please do

Photo credit: Made with happy.me

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