Is this how my students feel?

A concept has been explained to them multiple times, from multiple different angles. At a very basic level, they get it. They practice it in low stakes situations where they get reinforcement and encouragement, but every time they get their test back, Fail. They fail over and over again. They try, and try again, but it never seems to pay off. Why can’t I get this? Frustration sinks in, hope fades, they give up.

I’ve always been a quick learner. If I don’t get something, I go home; I research; I practice until I get it right. I don’t like to make mistakes, but I’ve learned they are inevitable and invaluable, so I tell myself to embrace them–make them make lots of them, but make sure you learn from them. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Enter my fourth block class. For nearly 90 days, I’ve tried and tried and failed. Everyday I fail. The basics and fundamentals of managing student behavior have been explained to me multiple ways from multiple people from multiple different angles. I’ve read blogs, attended conferences, listened ardently to the advice of colleagues. I get it; fundamentally I get it–If I have to redirect a kid more than twice, it’s no longer the student who is an issue, it’s me; follow-through on expectations and consequences; replace 3 minutes of math time with non-math time; give them brain breaks. When it comes to game time, though, I fail every single day. I lay out expectations at the beginning of class and don’t follow through on them. I redirect a kid over and over and then give up. I let kids argue with me, “It wasn’t me talking, Ms. Lee. Why are you always singling me out?” Is this how my struggling students feel? They practice. They tell themselves this time is going to be different, but then it isn’t. I get it. Give up. For three years, I’ve been telling myself that this year, this time it’s going to be different, but it isn’t. I walk from my classroom to my office with my head hung low. I know that I have failed the 80% of the class who show up to learn,  who do what I expect every day.

I’m a mathematician, a problem-solver, but I don’t know how to move forward. For the first time in my teaching career, I don’t want to go to school tomorrow. I don’t want to face that fourth block, that block with whom I have earned neither integrity nor respect. How do I move forward? I’m starting to become that student I struggle to teach the most.

But Explore MTBoS asked me to take a crappy day and notice the good, so here are three shiny starts I can pull out of my Wednesday:

  1. I hooked my 8th graders into thinking a boring stamp investigation was pretty interesting after talking about the rare 1856 British Guiana 1-cent stamp that sold for $9.5 million at auction in 2014. They came up with the growth factor/growth rate connection seamlessly.
  2. Both of my 7th grade classes (including the naughty fourth block one) took full advantage of quiz-fixing time in class. They worked with their groups, asked great questions and really wanted to understand where they went wrong.
  3. I worked with a student who had been struggling lately in class. She just needed a little one-on-one time to straighten out a couple of concepts, but she advocated for herself, and that’s awesome?

#MTBoS #ExploreMTBoS


4 thoughts on “Is this how my students feel?

  1. Wow! The pure honesty of this post resonated with me! I have been struggling with one of my classes and the feeling like I am failing them. In my case it is teaching and reteaching and requizzing the laws of exponents…and it doesn’t seemed to have helped AT ALL!!! Anyway…I have not even considered comparing the “teacher struggle” to that of students who struggle with the math. Thank you so much for sharing this! Also, I wrote a post last year about what I did with a “rowdy” class. I don’t know if it will be helpful as far as gaining ideas but I do hope that you might find it encouraging. Here is the link –


  2. I teach at college, and still have trouble with the students who don’t want to participate constructively (after almost 30 years of teaching). I am getting better at it, but I will be put to the test with a class this semester that will be full of students who don’t care for math.


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