I was speaking with a teacher last week about her students.
This was a teacher who was feeling a little defeated, because this year, many of her students are struggling and making poor decisions.
Every year, we all have one or two students who, for one reason or another, are just extra work for the teacher. Either they don’t have the support at home or they lack the maturity to make good decisions, or their skills are really low, etc. We do our best to support these students, but we can normally handle one or two in a class.
This teacher, however, has more than just one or two of these struggling students. She has close to 10. It has made for a challenging year to say the least.
She was feeling a bit deflated.
I’d like to share with you what I shared with her.
I told her to change her goal.
Her goal was to save each student. She wanted to be the one to turn these kids around, and make them see the importance of education. Her goal was to make this year the year where these kids become successful.
This is what amazing teachers do. They make saving each student their goal for the year.
I told her that she should make a different goal.
I told her that she should not focus on saving each student, but rather make a goal to grow as an educator.
I know that sounds mean, but let me explain.
If you make a goal to save the student, and the student does not become successful, then you will easily get frustrated every time your efforts to help a student are not successful. You’ll try every trick in the book. You’ll create new out-of-the-box strategies to connect these students with the lesson, and they still won’t change, and you’ll want to give up. I know. I’ve been there.
That’s why we have to change the goal.
Make your goal to become a better teacher, and although you may not save the student, your never-ending efforts to do so will result in you growing as an educator.
Use your efforts to save that student as the vehicle to meet your goal of becoming a better teacher.
When you do this, you won’t be frustrated when the student doesn’t respond to your efforts. You’ll see it as part of the trial and error process that comes with meeting your goal of becoming a better educator.
You’ll try new ideas. Your brain will work its magic and create amazing new ways to connect students, especially those student, to your lessons.
You may not reach that student before the year is out, but you just might.
At the end of the year, you will have accomplished one or two of the following:
- You will have reached that student. Your efforts will have paid off with turning that student around. Or if not,…
- You will have become a better teacher. You will have learned through trial and error what works and what doesn’t work. You will have added more tools to your tool box that you can use year after year. You will have created stronger bonds with the teachers with whom you have collaborated with. You will have discovered new ways of connecting students to school. You will have perfected your ability to be patient. Your efforts to reach those students will have built in you certain skills and attributes that will have made you a better, more valuable teacher.
I told that teacher, “You might not save these kids this year. They might not find success this year. It might happen next year or the year after, but when it happens it will be partly due to the efforts that you made every day while they were in your class.” I added that, “in the process of trying to connect with these students, you will have learned valuable skills that you can use for the rest of your teaching career.”
By changing the goal from saving these students to growing as an educator, even the bad days will be seen as part of the learning process, and it won’t be so frustrating.
What is your goal?
I’m sure you have some of those kids in your classes. Don’t give up on them. Keep trying new things to connect them to school. Collaborate. Get creative. Develop out-of-the-box lesson plans.
If you don’t succeed with these students this year, you can count on the fact that your efforts were not in vain. The teacher you will have become in the process of reaching these kids will benefit your future students for years to come.
Until next time, here’s to your Success in the Classroom!