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Find A Mirror (Total Teacher Transformation Day 2)

This is an article in the Total Teacher Transformation series. Click here for a complete table of contents.

1057325_Today’s lesson is simple, and yet profound.

One of the most difficult concepts for me to grasp was one of the most important in my early days of teaching. It is also the most transformational and pivotal of everything that we’re going to be doing through this process.

Every problem that happens in my classroom is my fault.

Or stated more positively

I am responsible to ensure good things happen in my class.

If we can get over that hurdle, if we can get through that first barrier, we are on the downhill ride to becoming a great teacher. We are responsible for ensuring that our classroom runs smoothly.

The behavior of students is a reflection of their teacher. If most of your students are misbehaving, it’s not primarily the fault of the students. The blame rests squarely on your own shoulders. YOU are the problem in your classroom. I came to realize that my class will behave as badly as I allow them to, and they will also behave as excellently as I demand that they do.

Clearly there will be exceptions to the rule. Sometimes they just misbehave. Weather conditions, testing schedules, assemblies, field trips. There are tons of opportunities in school for them to act up. But by and large, the great teachers are the ones who take personal responsibility for the behavior of their students.

Today’s assignment
Go find the nearest mirror and see who is in the reflection. That person is responsible for fixing most of the problems in your classroom. But recognizing that you are the source of many problems isn’t enough…there’s more.

Grab a notepad or some other note-taking device. Throughout the day, take note of the behavior problems you encounter. As time permits (conference period, lunch, worksheet time, after school), try to analyze how you contributed to the problem, and consider ways that you could have helped avert these problems.

It’s okay if you don’t get the time to solve all of the problems today. If you can get even one, that’s a great start. Over the course of the next four weeks, you may want to keep this notepad and see if the problems get less and less. It will also come in handy with tomorrow’s assignment, as well as later on in the week.

Short version
Write down every behavior problem you encounter today. Start the moment the first student enters the room and end the moment the last student leaves the room. Oh yeah, did I warn you that this week is going to likely be the most tiring week of your career? Oops, I’m getting ahead of myself, we only have to take one day at a time!

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.

2 thoughts on “Find A Mirror (Total Teacher Transformation Day 2)

  1. Joel, this is a very ambitious endeavor,especially at the end of the year. But one that is extremely important and will prove to be valuable to many, I am sure. And maybe this is the best time of the year for this sort of thing, since so many of us are looking for ways to better ourselves from what we were the past 8 months. This series will give us all something to reflect upon as we roll down the days to the end, but then take time to recharge over the summer months. Today’s topic couldn’t be more on target, and you’re right in saying that just recognizing this is a huge step in the right direction for any teacher, rookie or veteran.
    Tom Anselm

  2. This is very good advice. I blogged earlier in the year about a speaker we had for a teacher inservice while I was student teaching who said the same thing in a slightly different way: “Classroom management is self-management.” I’ve never forgotten that.

    Here’s an idea that I’ve had but haven’t tried (so caveat lector): If you’re reflecting on classroom management problems, write a space for discipline into your daily preparation. I’m a big believer in planning as a tool to help work out classroom management problems, and I think that it behooves us as teachers to think about what problems happened yesterday (or the day before, or beyond that, especially chronic behaviors) and adjust our planning to accommodate (read: eliminate) those sorts of issues. (When I say “write a space,” I mean literally: if you write out your lesson plans, make a place for what changes you will make this lesson to get rid of problems.) I think this would go nicely with the sort of reflection – no pun intended – that Joel’s talking about.

    Another thing that I want to throw out there: I had a chance to discuss an outgoing teacher’s habits with an administrator. This teacher was a poor planner and suffered with poor classroom management, and the administrator said that it was because the students knew that the teacher wasn’t respecting them enough to be prepared. Being unprepared doesn’t just make you look unprofessional; it makes students think that you don’t care enough about them to bring all you can to the classroom to help them learn. Food for thought.

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