IF YOU CAN'T REACH THEM
YOU CAN'T TEACH THEM
"That kid is the absolute worst; I can't wait to get rid of him." "Oh he might be bad, but wait till you see this other kid, he's a nightmare. I had the sister last year, have you met his parents?"
We all have you ever heard something like this in the teacher's lounge. While it may feel like venting, it doesn't help us become better educators. It instead keeps us stuck in the blame game.
What happens if we shift the focus to us? What would happen if we took full responsibility for what happened in our classrooms? This is not about blame, but about strength.
Because when we focus on what is wrong with the kids, we lose any power or strength to change anything.
The shift is simple, it starts with the conversations we have about students.
Instead of, “What is wrong with these kids? Don’t their parents teach them anything?” or,“I have tried, and nothing works.”
What if we changed the conversation to, “What do I need to change in me to address this? How can I make this work? What else can I try?”
However, those questions require self reflection and a willingness to change. Which is hard … really hard. The paradigm shift, to stop blaming the students, is the hardest realization to reach, but the most powerful and it gives you so much freedom.
The next time something in the class is not working, tell yourself it’s not “them”. Then, stop for a moment and make a note of it. Write down exactly what bothered you and why. Examine it for the why, and for what you wanted to see. It is important to be detailed here.
For example, I was bothered when my students acted inappropriately during an assembly, I wanted to blame them, their parents and society for not teaching them the social norms. But what bothered me is that they were not being respectful to the performers. That is a reasonable request, but until I took responsibility for teaching and communicating what I wanted, I was a victim to the students, their parents and society.
I had to break down exactly what respectful audience behavior looked like, why it was important, how it would be a positive addition to their lives and how to teach and model it.
Students need to know why it is important to follow the procedure, that is always the first step. Once the students understood why it was important, I taught them exactly what it would look; how to sit, keep their eyes on the performance, to clap when others were clapping, and to not make faces that conveyed boredom or disgust.
I then had one student model it, while I "performed", then a group of students modeled it, and finally the whole class modeled it. We had fun practicing it, laughing and enjoying this time together. Right before the next assembly, we reviewed the why and how of the behavior, and during the assembly, the students were amazing.
While it is a common refrain in some urban school districts to talk about what is wrong with the kids, the conversation needs to shift to what can we do to effectively teach students the expectations. It is time to stop blaming the kids and their parents, It is time to say if not for me than whom?
My tagline as an educational consultant is change a teacher, change a school, change the world because the change starts with us, it is an internal shift of the questions we ask, and the thoughts we have about our classes and students. The toughest part of the shift is making the decision that, . . . it’s not them.
Contact me today to help you transform your school.