Starting All Over Again. Every Day.

Keep your thoughts positive

because thoughts become your words.

Keep your words positive

because words become your actions.

Keep your actions positive

because actions become your habits.

Keep your habits positive

because habits become your values.

Keep your values positive

because values become your future.

         (From Inspirational Teachers, Inspirational Learners’

Will Ryan, Crown House Publishing, 2011. page 175)

It has been a long tortuous week since last Monday when I experienced perhaps one of my most disastrous lessons. It was made worse by the fact that there was a fantastic support teacher in the room standing beside a student teacher who was observing for the first time. There was little learning being done; or so I thought. There was, however, crushing embarrassment and suffocating deflation on my part. The lesson had been planned meticulously; or so I thought. I had set the challenge bar high but not too high; or so I thought. However, everything that I had planned slipped away as the lesson started badly and went rapidly down hill.

I reacted badly, sharing my pain with my Twitter PLN who responded in kind. My initial reactions, most of them unrepeatable, centred around the blame I placed on the students, the revenge I would take, the removal of privileges and anything remotely like interactive learning in the near future. I sat on the train scribbling things furiously into a notebook, things I’d do better, things I’d change about my classroom lay out, pin-pointing the culprits. But, as home approached, I began to understand who the real culprit was.

For one, if I was being honest, I hadn’t planned as well as I could have. I had relied on memories of a successful lesson from last year. Surely it would be the same this time. My resources were excellent. Previous lessons had gone well; there was a lot of good work to build on. The only difference was the students in front of me. Things did not go well and I failed to deal with that. I was not prepared for the level of disconnect. Under pressure to salvage something from the lesson I made poor decisions and little learning occurred. Or did it?

Would I have been equally upset if there had been no other adults in the room? Was I really just embarrassed that my reputation had, perhaps, been sullied by one badly taught, badly led lesson?  Would I have quietly accepted it if no one else had known? Or was I really just looking for an excuse to deflect the blame? As teachers have to do, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again. I didn’t see the class for a couple of days but I rethought my plan, reassessed my sources and headed back in. Was it better? Yes. Was it great? No; but the student teacher certainly witnessed two contrasting lessons. It was a valuable lesson for him.

Poor lessons must never be acceptable but they do occur, despite our wish to think otherwise. Taking what you can from the remains is what makes us better. This is perhaps why the announcement that new Chief of Inspectors at OFSTED, Sir Michael Wilshaw, claimed that teachers would never be given salary increases unless they ‘shone in the classroom’. My experience of Inspection doesn’t quite fit with that thinking, where HMI visit one, perhaps two, lessons and make a judgement. On any one day an inspector could walk into a disaster area; lessons going wrong for so many reasons. Good teachers shine over series of lessons; with the relationships they form; with the manner in which they learn from their mistakes.

If we are truly to believe that our students learn better through trying and failing and trying again, then it must also be acceptable for teachers to occasionally fail too. We must model good learning. Even if that means modelling good failing.

4 thoughts on “Starting All Over Again. Every Day.

  1. Thank you for you honesty and wise words .I had a year that made me really consider whether i was fit to be a teacher because of a run of bad lesson observations in one particular subject. Even now I haven’t scraped above satisfactory in this subject( which is an improvement granted, but not good enough for the position my school is in and certainly not for ofsted).
    I love teaching with a passion and put my all into teaching the children . My children love learning and some of my best lessons have been when their questions take us off onto another tangent addressing what they want to know ( no one was there then )
    When you have been knocked down , you can’t always get back up and be better straight away , bruises take time to heal , but scar tissue is tougher . Persistence is key , we must model this for our children and keep on regardless of those who try to demean us .
    Thanks again for your post , it has reminded me of me and also that I am not the only one who has done this . 😉

    • Hi Jen,
      i always think that when things go wrong as teachers there is no hiding place. I understand exactly what you are going through and that feeling never really goes away completely, it is your resilience which gets you through. Your enthusiasm for teaching really shines through in your response. Keep on keeping on,
      Thanks for your kind words,

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