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But It’s Not Your Fault!

1093472_wreckedHave you ever caught yourself trying to blame other people for something that is entirely your fault? Do teachers ever yell at kids for the teacher’s failure to prepare? Never!!!

We had our Homecoming Parade this week. I was there with the seventh grade band and we were setting up. One of the parents who was there with me noticed that I had put them in lines and they were out of lines and talking. She asked me if I wanted her to get onto them about it, because they were in for a rude awakening when they get to high school.

I smiled and told her it wasn’t necessary. They were out of line, but I told her it was my fault. She looked shocked. Why would I say such a thing? I explained to her that they didn’t know any better and that I hadn’t explained to them really. And besides, it had been 3 minutes since I set them in lines. It’s my fault. The sad thing is that it was as if I were the first person to tell her that the misbehavior of children might possibly be the fault of the adult.

So along this line of thought, I am underwhelmed by the number of responses I have gotten for this year’s Reader Appreciation Month. Most of it my fault for waiting too long to publicly announce it. So I’ll throw the offer out once again.

What are some of the best pieces of advice you wish you had known before you began teaching?

Leave comments or emails.

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

8 thoughts on “But It’s Not Your Fault!

  1. If I ever do catch myself doing this I try hard to stop the current direction explain what is happening then move on towards a better solution!

  2. My best advice to pass on to new teachers?
    Don’t assume that you don’t need to know 6th grade math because you want to teach kindergarten. There are times that you should never say “I don’t know” and one of those is when you are teaching elementary math. You’re the teacher, you’re supposed to know!

  3. I wish I’d realised that what I thought I’d taught is not neccesarily what the pupil learned. Many times now I’ve gone back to material which I thought we had covered only to discover the pupil hadn’t learned what I though at all. I now know to check understanding before moving on.

    I’ve since learned that I need to do the following:
    -Tell the pupil
    -Explain to the pupil
    -Show the pupil
    -Get them to do it
    -Tell them again (recap)
    -Get them to explain it to me.

    If I do this I can more or less be sure they’ve learnt what I thought I taught them.

  4. Joel, I can think of a million things I wish I had known before I started teaching. Here are a few:

    – Not every student cares as much about musical excellence as much I do. Learning to motivate students is of utmost importance.
    – Students need to be reminded of certain things in every rehearsal, or at least extremely often. Just because you told them once doesn’t mean it’s ingrained in them. (Posture, technique, fingerings, dates/times… you name it!)
    – Rome wasn’t built in a day. A great music program comes from years of development, from the elementary programs through high school.
    – Not every student comes from the same background as I did. A teacher can no longer assume that the student lives in a loving two-parent home with their own bedroom and all the resources I grew up with. If a student lives in an unstable, materially inadequate environment, their approach to education will be affected in ways that the best pedagogical skills cannot overcome.

    I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it there!


  5. Joel,

    What a great lesson to pass on to kids … and parents … and teachers. It is okay to make a mistake and even better to take responsibility and ownership for our actions. I think it does blow people away because it is so rare.

    Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of blaming and finger-pointing happening in high stress situations at our school. Instead of solutions people want “heads on platters”. It makes it hard enough for the staff to be honest and focus on solutions.

    I just got a great email from Brian Tracy that encouraged people to look to future instead of past and seek solutions instead of problems. We need to model for our children how to own our mistakes and move on to solutions, and then acknowledge them when they do the same.

  6. Joel,

    It’s my fault that people haven’t responded to your Reader Appreciation Month. It’s also my fault that your kids weren’t behaving in line. In fact, it’s my fault that the cold front came through Texas last week. Furthermore, it’s my fault that Abraham Lincoln was ever in the Ford Theater to begin with.

    Whew! You’re right — it DOES feel good to own up and get that all off my chest!


  7. I really don’t know that we can specifically blame this problem on this generation or contemporary society or anything else. I think it’s basic human nature to blame someone else when we mess up.

    Even as far back as Genesis 3, we read of Adam blaming Eve when he ate the fruit. In fact, he said, “the woman You gave me,” even trying to tag the blame on God. Eve turned around and blamed the serpent. It feels so much better to lay it somewhere else.

    Or then you have those extreme cases like Mister Teacher who just accept blame for everything basically just to get other complainers to stop talking. That’s not the best solution either…

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