A celebrated high school teacher of the year and candidate for the master teacher award in her state began this school year teaching her students in a concurrent environment. As such, she was teaching remote students at the same time she was teaching in-person students. Every day for the first two weeks of school she went home in tears. She was certain that she was failing with every student and she had totally lost the confidence that had been a hallmark of her teaching prior to the pandemic. She even started looking for another job.
Then, she decided to do something very simple. She said to her students, “Am I bad at this? I don’t think I’m doing a good enough job. You have to tell me how I can do better.”
Her students immediately replied to her, “Oh no, you’re not bad at this. We’re all struggling. We’re just happy we have you as our teacher and that you are hanging in there with us!”
And it was their comments that lifted her out of her teaching “funk.”
She went on to tell her students that she would need their help every day moving forward. She explained that there would most likely be days when a lesson wouldn’t work, or a new strategy would feel awkward and perhaps would not be as effective as something else they had done. But it was still important that they keep trying new things and new ways of learning so that everyone could find a way to be successful. Therefore, it was more important than ever that she receive their candid feedback and ideas for improvement.
The lesson: Don’t be afraid to admit to students how you are feeling. And don’t be afraid to make yourself vulnerable—or to say, “Let’s figure this out together.” This is new territory for everyone. Students are feeling as uneasy in this environment as we are—perhaps more so. And, if we ask them, they can help us get better at this new way of teaching. When we engage students in this way, they are more likely to lift us and our instruction up and be more engaged themselves.
Here are some simple questions you can ask students to answer at the end of a lesson or at the end of the week to reinforce the importance of working together on the common goal of making the learning experience better.
How do you think the lesson went today? What ideas do you have for how we might make my instruction and your learning even better?
What are the three best aspects of your learning this week? What made your learning experience effective?
What are two areas in which you struggled to learn this week? How might I help you be more successful?
What learning strategies worked best for you this week? Where do you think we should focus to help you broaden and strengthen your learning strategies?
What would you like to see us do more of? What might we do less of?
Do you need a dose of inspiration yourself? We suggest the movie Freedom Writers.
Do you have a story you would like to share? Email it to InYourCorner@masterteacher.com and we may post it on our In Your Corner website.