It's in this moment that I have two choices as a teacher.
My first option is to blame the class. I can wish for a class that was less energetic or one that read at a higher level. I could say, "these kids are awful" and then rant about it. I went there today, briefly, with my assistant principal. Not quite the "these kids are awful" comment, but more of "I've never had to work this hard to keep a group interested, engaged and following class routines."
The problem with this first approach is it doesn't work. It's like Jay Cutler yelling at the offensive line. It won't fix anything. It won't lead to a solution. It lacks the humility that leadership requires.
The second option is to examine what I could have done differently. I should have planned the lesson differently, with more breaks for small group discussion. I should have prepared better discourse questions. I nagged. My tone of voice was impatient and bordering on angry. I wasn't as energetic as they were. Ultimately, these are things I can control.
The other part of the second option is that it often leads me to see the positive side of the class. The truth is that almost every kid read aloud and that they are more into literature than ever before. And, while students pushing one another caught me off guard, the reality is that nearly every student walked respectfully into class. As far as the read-aloud goes, they thought well about the articles they read and wrote amazing blog posts about whether or not kids under 14 should have Facebook accounts.
I missed all that in the moment. I allowed my perfectionism to paint how I viewed my students.
I know that tomorrow has the potential to be really rough. It's a full day with no prep period the day before a holiday break. But I have two choices. I can go into it and say, "these kids are rough and this day will be tough." Or, I can come in with high-interest learning activities, a solid night's sleep and an intentionality about dealing with issues as they come up. Ultimately, the second option is the only one that will work long-term.
John Spencer is a teacher, author, keynote speaker, and incessant doodler. He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and the co-founder of Write About, a new social publishing platform due out this Fall. He is passionate about helping students find their voice as they grow into stronger writers and deeper thinkers.