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Stop Blaming the Students For Your Failure

I know I might not make too many teachers happy with this post, but oh for new teachers every student can learn

Over the years, I’ve heard so many teachers complain about their students who are getting failing grades, because the student is too lazy or because their skills are too low or because the students just don’t care.

They put the blame on the student for not succeeding in class. 

I don’t believe this.

It makes me a little angry, actually.

These college-educated professionals are blaming the poor grades on a 13-year-old or a 15-year-0ld or a 10-year-old. What do they get paid for? To teach.

Do I sound upset?

This post actually came out of a conversation I had recently with a teacher who was complaining about some of the students in his class. “They’re just lazy and don’t listen. I can’t help them if they don’t want my  help. They get the grade they deserve.”

I encouraged the teacher to not give up on the kids, and that there has to be some way to reach them. I don’t think he liked my suggestion.

Unfortunately, every school has a few of these blame-the-kids teachers.

If you’re a new teacher, please stay clear of them and their influence.

My belief has always been that every student can learn; all it takes is a teacher willing to find a way to teach him/her.

I have had to give failing grades to some students over the years – many students actually.

I can honestly say, however, that I never blamed the student. I always saw it as a personal failing on my part. I didn’t do enough to find a way to reach that student.

Every student can learn.

Every student can be reached.

How do you teach those students who can’t or won’t learn?

The answer is not what many teachers want to hear,

because it takes work; it takes time, and it takes patience.

Most of all, it takes a teacher who is sincerely concerned about the success of each of his/her students.

How do you reach those students ?

1. You find out what that student is interested in?

What music does he/she like? Sports? Movies? Hobbies? What gets the student’s attention?

This takes communicating with the student, spending time, showing interest.

Once you find out what motivates the student, incorporate it into your lesson plan.

Does this mean that last year’s lesson plan might have to be modified or even thrown out?


2. Communicate with  other teachers who have or have had the student.

What worked for them? What can you learn from their experience with the student.

Does that mean that you’ll have to collaborate with other teachers, even teachers at a different school site?


3. Communicate with the parents.

Parents can tell you a lot about the student that the student won’t or can’t tell you. What can the parents contribute to your mission to reach the student? Often times, we contact parents only to complain about the student’s poor work or lack of interest in his/her education. What if we try contacting parents with the only objective being to gather more information about the student to better teach him/her?

Does that mean that you’ll have to use some of your prep time to call parents?


Sometimes, you just run out of year.

Your efforts may not result in a passing grade for the student, but they will leave your class with one important thing – the knowledge that one teacher believed that he/she could learn.

I have had so many students come back and tell me, “Mr. Rangel, I failed your class, but you were my favorite teacher.”

I know that the reason for my “favorite” status was because of the value I placed on the student in a time of their lives when they didn’t see value in themselves or their future .

Quick tip:

When giving assignments, offer several options for completing the work. Have options that connect with the various learning styles and that offer more creative ways to demonstrate their knowledge of the topic.

I had a student who was not doing homework at all in my class until I had one of the options include a drawing element. The student, as it turned out, was a great artist. Once I realized this, I had all my homework assignment include an option to use illustrations. It worked. He began to get his work done and find success which is in itself a great motivator.

So, don’t be one of those teachers who blames the students for their poor effort in your classes.

Find a way to reach them.

It won’t be easy, but definitely rewarding.

I welcome your comments (or complaints).

If you find these posts helpful, I would appreciate it if you would share it with your followers or your friends.

Don’t forget to download my free e-book 101 Practical Tips for New Teachers.

Until next time,

Here’s to your Success in the Classroom!







  1. Michael Villanueva's Gravatar Michael Villanueva
    June 9, 2013    

    So Sam, I pretty much agree with all that you say here but what do you do with students who are so “unmotivated” during regular school sessions and will take advantage of summer school session or after school help to really get their act together? Summer school was not designed for catch-up learning or for upgrading purposes really. You gotta admit that the system in general has this built-in flaw. How can I make students more responsible at putting in an honest effort? I also tell my students intending to take over a class via summer school that they should not really bank on it because of cutbacks or budget cuts and then they’re stuck with a grade from their regular school session. I do remind them that they need to get their act together now. By the way, I am a strong proponent of affording people “2nd” chances. It’s up to them to decide whether to take it or leave it.

    • Sam's Gravatar Sam
      June 9, 2013    

      Hi Michael, Thank you for your comment, and yes, there will be students who will not take advantage of our efforts to help them. We can’t save them all. We at least need to do everything we can to provide those learning opportunities. I hear all the time from teachers, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” I agree, but we can find new and creative ways to lead the horse, plus we can make the water a little more flavorful. Again, we can’t save them all, but some teachers don’t even try. Thank you again for your comment. Keep doing what you’re doing. I’m sure your students appreciate you. Sam

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