Thursday, May 31, 2012

Three things I struggle with as a teacher

This post doesn't really have much to do with the Flipped Classroom, but I feel like what I've written below has been even more apparent since flipping my class.  Since I spend so much more time interacting with my students, these struggles have become almost tougher for me than when I just stood in the front lecturing...

Three things I struggle with as a teacher:

  • Sometimes I wonder if my expectations are too high. Is it possible to set the bar TOO high?  I believe that it's better to set the bar too high than too low, but are my expectations of excellence too much?  I expect my students to come ready to learn every day... I expect them to do their part, because I do much more than is required of me. I expect them to give their full effort - to pay attention, ask for help when they need it, and to do their best to succeed.  I understand that these are skills that do need to be taught, but it's just tough when I am sitting here 6 school days before summer break not feeling like "enough" of my kids have reached that bar.
  • Sometimes I wish I could end a year and feel like I reached every student.  I feel like the number of students I don't feel I really reached increases every year, or maybe it's just my perspective of a few more added to the pile of "didn't reach that kid" from each year.  I try to stay positive and focus on the ones that I've really reached, but it is disheartening to see those kids every day that still just don't get it (and I'm not talking about math here, I'm talking about "life" skills - integrity, organization, self-help, work ethic, listening to directions, etc). 
  • I really don't know how to teach or motivate a student who literally doesn't give an ounce of effort. I can't pull them by their earlobes if they don't want to succeed. I just graded my last Algebra 1 test (they did well, especially considering it was open notes!), but I still have a lot of F's overall.  I never thought I would say this, but I am hoping for 26 F's this year in Algebra 1 - out of 104 students. And that's only if all the students that have a chance of passing pull it together in the next 6 days.  Those 26 students are ones who don't have a chance of passing at this point. That frustrates me that I haven't been able to "make it click" with them this year.
I am almost to the conclusion of Magic Year 5 of teaching.  

I feel like I have learned a ton, but I still feel like I have so much more to learn.  

The one phrase that comes to my mind all the time, but I never really share is: "Do I care TOO much?"  Can't I just let these things go and not worry about them?  And my answer, as of right now, is NO. I can't wake up every day loving my job as a teacher and working with kids and NOT care about the three struggles I listed above.  Will that change? Do I want it to change? I have no idea.

What are your biggest struggles as a teacher?

How have you come to grips with them, or are you still struggling?

What have you learned over time to help you? (and maybe much longer than my 5 years!)

Please share in the comments!


  1. I've been teaching for a long time, and the problems you mentioned are ones good teachers always have. It is difficult to reach all the students all the time. One thing I've learned over the course of my career is that a lot of the ones you're not sure about are actually ones in whose life you've made a difference. You may not be aware of it now, or never, but there are kids whose life you've touched. At our school, the seniors write thank you letters to teachers who made an impact on them in their high school years. Some of the letters I've received are from kids who were so-so students who didn't really seem to care that much about your class or about what was going on, but who really were impacted by the atmosphere or your attitude, or your caring, or even something intangible or indescribable about your class. The very act of CARING about them, whether they succeed at your subject matter or not, makes such a difference. I was listening to a student conversation a few days ago and heard one student say about Mrs. Z, another teacher in our school, "oh, she's not bad if you're one of her favorites." I hope no one EVER says that about me - yes, I do have favorites, but I strive to make every student feel as if I don't, or that they're all my favorites. The caring - even if you sometimes feel as if it's too much - is what makes that difference.

    1. Mrs. Vance,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Sometimes we just need to know that we are all in this together - through the great times and the hard times. Thank you for the reminder that the payoff for a teacher does not come automatically most of the time, but our efforts and caring do make a difference in the lives of our students :)

  2. I think the fact that those things do bug you makes you a good teacher. I always said that the first 5 years I was just figuring things out. The last 8 years have been more ME in the classroom . . . more of a comfort level to work those unmotivated students. Also, flip (no pun intended) your focus and realize that nearly 80 students in your Algebra were successful in some way. And, for some the end result is not the success that is the focus . . . did they begin to participate in class? work on classwork assignments? Little things. That's my take. I agree with Mrs. Vance that this is something we all as teachers deal with. I think a lot depends on your personality, the student personality, the classsroom make up of students, etc. 6 classes = 6 subtle differences in how I deal with the classes.


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