What do you do when something goes wrong?
Everyday I am greeted by a barrage of articles and posts from across the nether sphere that is the internet, especially from platforms like LinkedIn, dealing with the pre-requisites of success; what are the top 10 habits of successful people, what 10 things do successful people do everyday etc (oddly this advice always seems to come in sets of 10, sometimes 5s).
Perhaps now, particularly today, I am more willing to implement some of the facets I have read about. Today, more than any day in my recent history, I felt pretty defeated. A class of mine, one that I used to hold in particularly high regard has slipped further down the path to failure than I had realised. The moment when it hit me hurt, at its core, at the very root of the problem must be me, their teacher.
So facing this failure of mine, this wall of defeat, I was left with a simple but altogether daunting choice, how was I going to handle the situation? I could easily bury my head in the sand, try to ride out the storm, but that’s hardy the attitude of a successful individual, and I want to be successful, there is not doubt about that.
My response was thus to formulate a plan. I’ve often read that successful people meticulously plan their days, there time is well managed and always fixed to a particular goal. So I have planned tomorrow, what I’ll do from the moment I wake to the moment I return to the land of nod. I won’t share this plan with you, it’s a little vague at the moment and may go through a few iterations first (I know, not knowing is just going to eat you up inside, or perhaps not).
Well I’ll share a few details, I have scheduled a meeting with my supervisor and my Chinese counter-part (I’m an ESL Teacher) to discuss the class, what’s gone wrong and, in the time they have left at this level, what we can do to get them back on course. Now I understand I may draw some criticism here from my colleagues, who will firmly believe I’m doing too much. Aside from my personal sense of professional pride, I have to do a good job, I owe it to the kids to do a good job. Whilst I may only teach them for a year or so, I may end up having a profound impact on their lives, or you know at least their ability to speak English, and that is fundamentally important.
As well as taking to planning my time and meeting the problem head on, I’ve adopted another attribute associated with successful people, as the internet has told me; reflection. To really turn this class around it’s important for me to reflect on what may have gone wrong as well as where and when it went wrong. I know that classroom discipline has slipped. My classes are generally pretty relaxed, I set my ground rules early on, maintain them and only punish students when they are broken. This can, however, lead to classes becoming too comfortable with you, leading to, not necessarily a lose of respect, but to kids pushing the boundaries, seeing just how far they can go and what they can get away with. Also if a lesson gets too casual, their focus will deviate and that is a consequence of my actions.
I also believe I took for granted the aptitude and intelligence the class initially displayed. They learnt and understood grammar, how to apply it, as well as vocabulary with relative ease. It’s only now, with increased complexity, their knowledge gaps have truly become apparent. My lesson planning and execution have become too lax, I became too complacent in the manner in which I taught them, and as a result their ability to conduct themselves in English has suffered, something again I must take responsibility for.
I can’t shoulder all the blame myself, as with anything the students desire to learn plays an important role in their efforts and results. Having said that, I need to face up to my failures as a teacher, I can’t run from these missteps, but now I have become aware of them, I can correct them. In the face of defeat I have made an active choice to step up, accept my faults and address them, a statement I can be proud of.
So what do you do when something goes wrong? When you face a challenge or a problem? Do you face it head on, or hide and hope it all passes you by?