Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lessons in Humility

Monday I taught four classes with a lesson which had been achieving overwhelming success. But on Monday the results were different. The activities which had enthralled other children were found to be only so-so. The thematic thread, the glue that holds the lesson together--held little interest. It was like herding cats.

"How could I have become such an overnight failure?" I wondered.

All four classes had something in common. I hadn't seen these children for weeks and weeks due to snow days and Monday holidays. They're preschoolers, many with special needs, and their schedules and school time have been disrupted. And into this swirling chaos comes that nice music lady. Who was she, again?

So many factors affect the classroom experience. This article, "8 Myths That Undermine Educational Effectiveness", says it well.

Of course teachers are extremely important. Good teachers make a significant difference in achievement. But research indicates that less than 30 percent of a student's academic success is attributable to schools and teachers. The most significant variable is socioeconomic status, followed by the neighborhood, the psychological quality of the home environment, and the support of physical health provided. There are others, but the bottom line is that teachers have far less power to improve student achievement than do varied outside factors.

My success or failure with my students is strongly influenced by continuity and the relationship-building that it fosters. I can be prepared, enthusiastic, with an excellent lesson and outstanding materials, but that alone doesn't equal success. On any given day there are so many factors that affect my students. Having worked with preschoolers for over twenty years, I maintain the ability to be flexible, switch things up, tailor the lesson to the situation. If you have ever tried to hold the attention of a group of preschoolers, you will know what I mean.

So I'm not going to give up on teaching because I had a bad day. I'm not going to waste more than five minutes thinking, "Why didn't they love that?Everyone else loved that!" I'm going to accept that everyone needs lessons in humility now and then, and that this one may not have been my fault.

I sure hope we don't have any more snow days.



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