The X-Factor

If a student (or all 26 of them) have a bad day I'm usually thinking on it for a while. What was it that went wrong for them? At first I think of the factors I can control - do they understand the material, do they understand my expectations, etc. - and then I wonder about those outside factors. Did they eat breakfast? Was Dad hitting Mom last night? Are they just feeling out of sorts because of the weather or they got in trouble before school? All these factors are among hundreds or more that could affect a kid's behavior and focus.

Yesterday I had something of an (obvious) epiphany. What about the factors that affect my teaching? I'm always thinking about my lesson planning and preparation for teaching. Do I have a clear idea of what I'm teaching and how I'm going to teach it? What materials do I need? Am I doing everything I can to engage the different kinds of learners in my classroom. But, until yesterday for some reason I never thought to think about the x-factors that affect me as a teacher.

It's funny because I always think about them with my students. And in a way I was not being fair to myself, because adults can get thrown off just as much as kids by external forces. And usually we're just as oblivious (if not more) to the way these factors affect our daily performance. Whether it's bad weather, dirty dishes in the sink, a negative comment from a coworker or whatever, there's a myriad of things that can throw you off without you knowing it.

This was an especially important realization, because the students definitely feed off the attitude of the teacher. Frustration and anxiety are completely projected onto the students. If I raise my voice out of anger it may result in quiet, but more often than not the students react with equal negativity. So if I'm upset or aggravated and I bring that into the classroom without realizing it I might end up inadvertently undermining my teaching for the day.

What I understood yesterday when I had this epiphany is that this is okay sometimes. Sometimes you just have a bad day and it's not anybody's fault. You can do your best to reflect and examine and rethink your whole game plan. But every once in a while it's important to just chalk things up to things outside your control and plan for a fresh start tomorrow.


Unknown said…
good for took me nearly 2 years to figure this out. When I want my kids to do anything I do it first. This includes be quiet. For instance, if I want them to be quiet, then I get really quiet. I start to speak to them using only my hands and gestures. They get the point. It also defuses the situation. I also try to remember that winning only 3 of 5 games to go to the world series. If I can hit 3 of 5, then I get excited about going to the world series. They will have bad days and you will have bad days. Accepting this and being nice about it is the first step.

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