You’ve made it through the busy days of the first weeks of school. You’ve learned names, set procedures, and are inspiring students about a new year of language learning. Everything is going great… until one day, it isn’t. As teachers, we tend to be really hard on ourselves. It is time to change our thoughts about “bad days.” Here are four things to consider after a tough day in the classroom.
1.) Just because it wasn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it was a bad day.
Maybe transitions were a little choppy, or that activity wasn’t a great fit after all. Take a look at what you did accomplish. Did they get good target language input? Did they learn something new from the target culture? Did they have a chance to interact and collaborate with peers? Were they able to complete the “I can…” statement you showed them at the beginning of the class? If you can say yes to even a few of these questions, I would call that a success!
Plus, learning isn’t always neat and quiet, most times it is a little messy. Tom Welch taught me the phrase “Chaordic”. If there is too much chaos – no learning happens. If there is too much order – no learning happens. True learning happens with a healthy balance of chaos and order.
2.) Not every student is going to love every lesson.
Our classes are made up of a bunch of personalities with different interests and learning styles, and they all come into the room with varying moods based on a million things that we can’t control. I heard the theory below from PBL trainer Marty Sugerik and it really helped me let go of the idea that I needed a daily 100% approval rating.
No matter what you teach, about 20% of the students will love it. Great lesson, terrible lesson… it makes no difference. A handful of students will LOVE it. On the other hand, in that same lesson about 20% will hate it (even if they are compliant and don’t tell you they hate it). The other 60% are up for grabs. Instead of worrying too much of those who hate it, work to win over the 60%.
Plus, kids are fighting their own battles. Are they hungry? Are they tired? Did they get in trouble in the last class? Did they get made fun of before school this morning? Did they drink three Mountain Dews before your class and are now bouncing off the wall? Are they dealing with something really tough at home? It’s important we remember that they are little humans who have “off” days, too. If a student doesn’t love your lesson, don’t take it too personally.
3.) A tough day can provide really valuable insight.
Some days, it isn’t the kids… our lesson was the problem. Instead of feeling bad about your planning or your execution after a flopped lesson, think of it as research. Companies pay big money to have people test their products or to have people analyze their execution so they can find flaws and improve. Taking time to reflect helps you figure out what works and what doesn’t and make adjustments for the next day. (Plus, you don’t have to pay big bucks for it.) I had a tough class in my first few years that was brutally honest. I heard “this is stupid” more times than I can count. After the shock wore off, I starting looking for more relevant authentic resources and more realistic tasks to pair with them. I needed to make their learning more meaningful! Their negative comments made me a better teacher.
Once the day is over, take a small amount of time to reflect and then move on. A growth mindset means remind you learn from the past, and use it to be a little better tomorrow!
4.) Success is best measured over time.
Most of us will teach multiples classes a day, 180 days a year. Little ups and downs are normal. You can have flopped lessons (or even a bad unit) and still have an amazing year of learning. Any great teacher will attest to this.
In fact, let’s connect this to the sports world. José Altuve has a career batting average is .316 which basic means he gets a hit about 30% of the time he is at bat. He also had a string of 19 at-bats without a hit this year. Did I mention he is one the top hitters in baseball right now. Steph Curry is a killer 3-point shooter who is setting basketball records and then turning around and breaking his own records. His 3-point percentage was 42% this last season. These two are some of the best in the world and they are both less than 50%. I bet their numbers would go way up if they played easier opponents or took on less risks, but that’s not how you grow!
All teachers miss the mark sometimes. We all strike out every now and then. Don’t let it shake you! You’ve got a class that is a tough opponent? Don’t give up! Success takes time!
It’s not about being perfect. It’s about having good lessons, some great lessons, and being better than we used to be. So if one day you get the urge to call it a bad day, take a second and reconsider. Don’t beat yourself up… it’s all a part of the process!