“If, at first you DO succeed, try not to look astonished.” I heard this the other day on a crocheting podcast and I’m sorry that I don’t remember the girl’s name that said it. But then I started thinking about how it applied to my teaching career. I thought of some situations and the variations of this saying as it applied to them.
How many times have I planned a great lesson and it turned out great, just like I expected? Sometimes I would plan a lesson and really get into the planning and the excitement. I guess when I taught the lesson this excitement and enthusiasm really showed and infected the students, which made them get into the lesson. A lot of times, I, the teacher, was the one who set the tone for the lesson and the students picked up on it. When this happened, I felt like the greatest teacher in the world!
How many times have I planned a great lesson and it flopped, not like I expected? Sometimes I planned the lesson and thought I had it all spelled out. For some reason when I explained it to the class, they just didn’t get it. Of course, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t get it and feel the same excitement I was feeling. This in turn dampened my enthusiasm and I’m sure the tone of my voice and my body language conveyed the message of disappointment to my students. Like a snowball rolling downhill, the momentum of the disappointment just grew until the actual lesson was no longer the focus in the classroom. I would get frustrated and the kids, already frustrated would just sadly shake their heads and hope to survive until the bell rang.
How many times have I planned an okay lesson and it turned out just okay, like I expected? I have had those days were I just didn’t feel well or didn’t feel motivated and knew my lesson wasn’t spectacular but would be okay if an administrator happened to pop in to observe me. I always knew when I didn’t give it my all and didn’t expect very much from my students. Of course, like the self fulfilling prophesy, that is exactly what happened. The students did what was needed to get by, just in case I made them accountable for anything. I admit that I know this is not the sign of a good teacher and even though I wanted to be the best teacher in the world, on this day, I was shooting for not being the worst teacher in the world.
How many times have I planned an okay lesson and it turned out better than I expected? Sometimes I planned a lesson that I was required to teach because it was in the curriculum. I admit that I’m not always enthusiastic about certain topics as I am about others but I want to do the best that I could. I did not want to repeat situations like I mentioned in the previous two paragraphs, so I really tried to get into the lesson. I did all the things that I was supposed to, such as using different strategies, planning for differentiated instruction, and all the fun activities to engage the students but I just didn’t like the topic. I knew in my heart that the lesson still would only turn out okay so I was disappointed before I ever started the lesson. Imagine my surprise when the students seemed to really “get into” the lesson and participated by asking questions, entering the discussion, giving opinions and wanting to get started on the activities. Those were days that I thought, “Man, how did I do that?”
I think sometimes, as teachers (the good ones – and you know who you are) tend to be overcritical of themselves. We need to accept that we are human (like we tell our students) and accept that we will make mistakes and sometimes not do the best that we should. We need to reflect on what we did and how it affected our students so we can try not to make the same mistakes again, but that is no guarantee that we won’t. Teachers are not robots and we have feelings, emotions, and sometimes rotten days just like everyone else and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over the fact that we might not have taught the best lesson. Good teachers tend to do this (and you know who you are!). I’m not saying that if you don’t feel this way you aren’t a good teacher but some of us do. People who think teachers are perfect and inhuman with no feelings or emotions and hold us to this high standard are unrealistic. I also don’t think it is bad if you think of yourself as a good teacher. It is not egotistical or self inflating as long as you know you gave it your best shot at the time because this train of thought builds our confidence. Teachers need to be their own cheerleaders because someone who doesn’t teach just doesn’t understand our feelings (like the jokes where “you just had to be there.”)
In order to be successful in teaching, we need do our best and know that as long as human feelings and emotions are involved (any time you are dealing with children, they are involved), things may turn out in ways we never thought they would. So, if you do succeed, try not to look astonished!