Turning into the teacher I don’t want to be

Turning into the teacher I don't want to be

I’m really struggling with a class right now. I don’t know how this year will turn out, but I’m going back to the basics. (Wikimedia Commons / Ildar Sagdejev)

I’m struggling with a class right now more than I have in years.

I know that these posts here on Ditch That Textbook aren’t generally about me and my situation, but I really feel compelled to write about this one.

It’s a large class — so large that I had to find a spare desk and chair somewhere so I would have enough seats for everyone.

There are lots of big personalities in this class as well — students who poke at other students, students who bother others while we’re trying to work, and on and on. Unfortunately, some of these big personalities are drowning out the others and making the task of learning a pretty daunting one.

I’m finding myself turning into the teacher I don’t want to be.

I’m shushing them — all the time. I heard a speaker recently say that shushing students was akin to telling them to “shut up” … something I would obviously never tell them.

I assigned a massive homework assignment as punishment for the entire class, and even after I did it, I could count a handful of reasons why this was really the wrong thing to do. I don’t want my content to become punishment, and the work they were doing was far from engaging or anything that would reveal their proficiency to me.

I’ve even cut them off from technology, something I swore was a horrible idea in a blog post in Feburary. But when inappropriate messages were showing up on my projector screen in a TodaysMeet backchannel, I had to do something to “stop the bleeding.” (This is also the same class that figured out that if they hit the “submit comment” button on KidBlog hundreds of times really quickly that it would post hundreds of comments to their classmates’ blogs.) (And, by the way, yes, we’ve had the conversations about digital citizenship and appropriate behavior online.)

I’ve yelled, and the last thing I am is a yeller.

I almost don’t recognize myself with these kids. Like I said, I’m struggling. Big time.

I found Todd Whitaker’s words in “What Great Teachers Do Differently” hitting home in a big way today.

“Good teachers consistently strive to improve, and they focus on something they can control — their own performance. Other teachers wait for something else to change. Great teachers look to themselves for answers; poor teachers look elsewhere.”

Boom.

Am I totally at fault here? Honestly, I’m probably not. I do my best to create engaging lessons for my students. I try to bring my best to class every day.

But if I blame my students, I will get nowhere. They’re not going to change if I blame them. In fact, it will probably get worse. (No, I KNOW it will get worse.)

I don’t know how this story is going to unfold. I do know one thing I’m going to try to improve it.

I fear that I’m not sticking to my core beliefs as a teacher. One of them is the value of relationships. It’s almost cliche today, but there’s a reason so many people rely on this saying: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

My first action is to improve relationships. I have never had these students in class before this year. I don’t know a lot about their lives, what’s important to them, what they do outside of my class. That stuff is important to them. It should be important to me, too.

As much as I want to withhold my best stuff in class from them (like all of those “Teach Like a Pirate” hooks I’m doing for my 30-Day Pirate Challenge) and make them suffer for my frustrations, I’ll still keep bringing them my best.

We’ll see how it all turns out.

I hope that this post resonates with you in some way. Again, I know it’s not the type of writing I generally do here, but it’s honest. I really felt that I needed to share it. And I can’t think of a better group of people I’d like to share my struggles with than my readers here.

So … do you have any ideas for me?

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