I remember back to my first few years of teaching when my skin was still thin. I would spend tons of my free time developing what I considered to be a knock-out lesson only to have my students respond to it negatively. By responding negatively I do not mean rudeness or insubordination. I mean, boredom and apathy—two things I hate. And what was my response to their negative reaction? An even more negative one! I would allow my pride to get the better of me and went on the defensive. After all, didn’t I put all that time into the assignment? Why didn’t those little, ungrateful teens enjoy it like they were supposed to? I felt like shaking the assignment in their face and passionately telling them how many hours I had agonized over every detail of this assignment—spending at least thirty minutes picking the font! But thankfully I didn’t. I didn’t want to appear totally crazy to them. So I would just let it ride—taking a little grudge with me. Yet that grudge only served to defeat my creativity. “Why should I work hard for ungrateful students? Let them do worksheets!”
After about five thousand times of repeating this process, I learned a few things:
- Sometimes a lesson doesn’t work with a certain group of students, but it will work with others.
- Sometimes a lesson requires a few tweaks to get it to perfection.
- Sometimes a lesson idea is horrible and should be shot on sight.
- Any of these results is fine, and none of them is the students’ fault.
Students have no idea how hard a teacher works…and never will. That’s okay. We can’t blame them for that. When our lessons don’t go the way we want them to, the fault (dear Brutus) is with ourselves. The responsibility is on us to modify that assignment to make it effective. Neither should we be offended by the students’ reaction. In business they have customer service. As teachers our customers are the students, and our job is to provide them with a quality education. We can’t rely on their opinion of what they should learn. (Wouldn’t that be scary?) But we can depend on how they respond to the assignment. If it is effective, their response will let us know that. If it’s not, we will see it clearly. When a lesson falls flat its face then it’s time to let our thick skin kick in. Roll with the punches. Learn from a fiasco. Build a better mousetrap.
Don’t resent the students though. They are why you are where you are.