Failure in the Classroom- Part 5

My post from last time still applies. If I reference a child, I am going to make sure that they stay non identifiable. Also, I am going to use imprecise language at times. Be give me some grace.

Besides the first year teaching, “this year” (not actually this year) was my worst year in teaching. I had about 8 students with constant behavior issues. I had students out of their seats all the time, hitting kids on their way back. There was constant talking, chatting, shouting, with a sprinkle of WAY inappropriate language from Primary students. So inappropriate that I had a hard time communicating what was said-I found it difficult to even repeat the words.

I have had pretty decent classroom management skills through the years but nothing was working. Like Nothing. And like any good teacher, I wavered between what is wrong with these students to what is wrong with me. There was very little middle ground.

I was in a rut. I could not get out. I started looking for ways to take days off. To give you reference, O never took days off. Even when I was sick. Even when my first daughter was born, I only took a couple days off because I was afraid of getting fired.

But that is a whole other story.

I actually took a couple sick days because I did not want to go to my class. Many nights I would go to bed thinking about the awful day I had. Many days I would drive to school with a sick feeling of dread not knowing what the day would bring. I was hoping that one or two kids were going to be absent. When they were late, there was a ray of hope that they were out that day. And a visceral reaction of, “oh crap” when I saw them walk up.

This was not my best moment. This was not my best year. Did I mention this was my worst year in a long time? Somehow, I was failing big time. I did not like my job. I did not like the kids. I hardly knew my sweet compliant kids, because I had no emotional energy to even acknowledge them because the bad behavior was so constant.

It was affecting my attitude, my home life. I, in effect, neglected my family because I was constantly talking about how crappy the day was. There was a sort of light at the end of the tunnel, but it often felt like an oncoming train. Part of this was avoidable; some of it wasn’t. I was in a real downward spiral, and it wasn’t even over yet.

This is the post I had thought about when I first thought of writing about failure, because, in so many areas of my life, I was. It has actually been an interesting series for me; all because I knew this part of the story was so hard to tell.

My coworkers were sick of hearing it, my wife certainly was, and I was certainly done. There is more, but it will have to wait.

Until next time,


Failure in the Classroom- Pt 4 (Kids Edition)

Back to the Future. Squirrels. Coffee. These have nothing to do with each. It is just how my brain works sometimes. So, I was planning on going to the present to talk about some mistakes, some failings I have had. Every.Single. Day. But I want to still be careful. (See how hard it is to talk about failure in our own lives?)

Instead, I want to talk about some students. Now, I have been in education for 16 years now so I have met a lot of students. There have been a lot of “why would you do thats” and many “Just Stop”s, but for the most part, kids are always making some weird choices. And with two girls at home, I get reminded often.

Anyway, the kids I am going to talk about are a conglomeration of different kids, partly to protect some anonymity and partly because the kids sometimes just blend together in my mind. It is convenient that way. These are not necessarily failures, just moments that stick out- plus from the outside, they may appear like something is amiss.

Image result for strange kids

One student was super low. She missed much of her Kinder year, and about half of first grade. So, going into 2nd grade, her scores were low. She could not really read. Certainly not on grade level. She was a 2 on the DRA. By the end of the year, she was a 3. Growth but nothing major. She was a bundle of energy, could not sit still, and was always touching/hitting/bumping into others.

On paper, she was not looking good. Certainly, her test scores were awful and she did not look like a success. She did not make the teacher or the school look good. She was pointed at and discussed- Why did she not grow. What teaching strategy can be done to raise those test scores? (Don’t get me started.)

Well, the test scores don’t really matter. This girl was no longer homeless and begging for money with her father. Her dad had found some employment, but it was still an ongoing struggle. She was eating at least breakfast and lunch every day. She went from a 2 to a 3.

Failure? She made the test scores go down. But is that the only thing? Is it the main thing? There were many failings in this young life. There were few discernable successes. At least academically. But she went from a 2 to a 3.

But there was a spark. Of hope. The teachers felt like failures because she went from a 2 to a 3. When a 40% was a good score for her. When you could not read the jumble of letters that she thought she was writing. After extra time, support, and energy poured into this girl.

A failure. Because her test scores brought down the class average. Because she could barely read.

If it were the end of the story. But she is still writing her story with her life. A snapshot of our lives may look like failure and it may be, but as long as we are still breathing, we keep trying. Sometimes we can’t give 100%. Sometimes we have to take care of ourselves because “whatever it takes” is taking a toll.

But we press on, sometimes barely surviving. Sometimes crying on the way home or on the way to school. Sometimes feeling sick having to come back to the battle. Sometimes hopeful that today will be a little different.

As Angela Watson says, “It is not going to be easy. It is going to be worth it.”


Hot Links- 2-17-20

How to undo your classroom management mistakes– Angela Watson has some great tips. Big tip? Don’t wait.

A simple activity to increase voice and choice in your classroom– Ditch that Textbook has another good article.

13 Rules That Expire– NCTM Great look at some math rules (tips or tricks) that do not always stand the test of time.

Mistakes Are Not All Created Equal– This was shared by our OSICC.

Eduprotocol – The Random Emoji Generator Power Paragraph– I pretty much enjoy most of the things from Jon Corippo. This one is no exception. I have tried this in my class for some quick writes AND revision exercises.

Failure in the Classroom Pt. 3

So, through this series, I have been speaking in generalities, because there is still a great fear to speak of things gone wrong. Part of it is just the general fear of failing and it is still not fun to point it out. Part of it is making sure I protect others who might be involved. I do not want to intentionally hurt someone if they recognize themselves in the situation. Failure does not happen in a vacuum, so it is something on my mind.

The good news is that I have been in education, in some manner, for 16 years so I have a storehouse of failure to consider. Haha. No, really. Plus, I can kind of combine experiences to help protect the innocent.


So, my first year of teaching I made some mistakes. This goes without saying. My first assignment was at a Charter school. (I am not a charter school hater like the NEA or Union wants me to be. Sorry- I think they serve a valuable choice in parents deciding what they want for their kids- Don’t we want voice and choice in the classroom?) But I digress. Before they hired a second 7/8th grade teacher I had 50 junior highers in my class. I got to rotate my desks/chairs because there weren’t enough any given day.

That is not the mistake, though it could be because who wants to teach 50 junior highers in one class? Yeah, no one in their right mind or a teacher looking to have a paycheck. I remember I was trying to be funny and creative with some things, so I had heard someone say they used a toilet seat for the bathroom pass. Yeah, except they had taught for years in an elementary school. (This was to solve the problem that my bathroom passes rarely made it back from the bathroom and I was sick of making new ones.)

Image result for silly bathroom decor

Junior Highers do different things. So, I thought nothing of it until I got called into the principal’s office to talk about it. The report was that several of the boys may have sat on the seat while in the bathroom and some were wearing it around their head like a necklace.

I mostly got a “let’s find a different pass” speech and moved on. But it was a good lesson. The bad thing was that I had once been a teenage boy, so it is something I should have caught because I probably would have thought the same thing. Might not have had the courage to do it, because if my dad found out, I would not be able to sit on anything for the day. 🙂

This is not the worst (I may have blacked that out), but it is one of my first and most memorable. I will consider other failures in another post in the series.

Learn from it, or don’t


Failure Supplement- What is Success?

While I do not have time, right now, to continue my series on failure, this quote, on success, is a great one to ponder.

“Right now we are at odds in many systems because we say we want kids to be critical thinkers, productive citizens, responsible decision makers…and then we only measure ‘success’ by how they perform on a test and not celebrate how they have grown and developed the other desired skills and mindsets.” Katie Martin

Hot Links 1-24-20

Supporting Sense Making with Mathematical Bet Lines – NCTM– I’m not sure if the link will work. If not, just search the title for NCTM article. It is a different way to look at students making predictions about what they think might happen.

20 Google Sites Tips and Tricks – We are having students add to a Google Site to share their learning about animals. Check out Matt Miller’s post to give you some tips.

Learning to Learn Beyond the Test– Anyone who has read this blog in the past knows I am not a fan of the “Test” for so many reasons- most of them are student related. We must, at the very least, teach that learning goes far beyond A TEST. Many of our schools don’t reflect that, and it is sad. For students, AND teachers.

“So if “tests” are the reality, which is often determined by people outside of education, what do we do?

I believe that if we focus on helping our students become great learners, they will be fine on the tests.  But if we help students become good at tests, that doesn’t mean they have become good learners.” George Couros

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To mush good stuff just in that post. I can feel myself already getting worked up. Haha.

Happy Friday.

Use it or Don’t


Failure in the Classroom- Part 2

Continuing from last week, I am at a loss for words. But I made a commitment to write for at least 10 minutes. Many times for me, it is about just getting the ball rolling and the words come.

So, when I was a kid, I always had that “aunt”. I can’t say for sure if she was an aunt or Grandma, or just a fake relative from TV. But I feel like I had one that we would not see often. And everytime, there was always the oh, wow. Look how much they’ve grown comment.

Thankfully, it was not usually accompanied by a cheek pinch, but a flowery powdery smelling hug.

Image result for i smell old people

Anyway, I never felt bigger. We often don’t when we are in the middle of life. It takes us needing to take a step back and look at how far we’ve come.

This year is no different. In the day to day teaching, things feel, well, still sometimes unsettled. There is a messiness to learning, particularly how we are trying to do something new. And maybe that is a big part of it.

But we get encouragement, that from the outside, we look like we’ve grown. (I won’t say old people 😉 ) Even if it doesn’t always feel like it. I believe we have grown. If I take a step back, I can totally see that these kids, and myself are not the same as we were a few months ago. Things are, indeed, running smoother. The kids are adapting to the new changes of this environment. The teachers are adapting to the new environment. Yes, we are growing.

It is messy. We have a long way to go. But we have grown. Maybe not as much as we would like. Again, maybe that is just my feeling- I have felt more accomplished in other environments, but, that is part of our learning curve. It is big. t is a weird thing. I am uncomfortable. I feel like I am failing, drowning, surviving, at times. But this is different.

I’m not alone. I don’t [can’t] just close my door and deal with the frustration and difficulty alone. At the least, I can look across and ask “you too”? Yep. Me too.

That is different. And it makes a difference.

Use it or Don’t.

Derrick “my how you’ve grown” Bright

Failure in the Class- Part 1

So, I can be pretty inconsistent with writing this blog, at times. There are many times I don’t want to write, but I do. There are many times that I don’t want to write and…I don’t. I try to be consistent in posting at least once a week, but it doesn’t happen.

This has been a post that I have wanted to write but I knew it would take some time, so I kept putting it off. I actually read the article I am referring to way back in October 2019 and have wanted to write it since then. I didn’t know what to write, but I knew it was important. If not for my reader, then for me.

The article I read was called Facing Failure in the Classroom. There was nothing spectacular about the article, but it struck a nerve. Here is a part that really stood out.

We don’t talk about failure enough. Sure, we talk about allowing kids to deal with failure and how to set up an environment where failure is valued, allowing redos, and constant revision. Again, like the highlight reel, these pieces are needed.

But, failure isn’t a topic that we speak enough about. Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs. Getting a group of students to learn a concept isn’t easy. We don’t acknowledge that difficulty enough. We don’t make it acceptable to have teachers discuss their failures, seek real, meaningful advice, and then rebound from it.

Now, it could be that the reason this stuck out to me is that it was October.

I am in a brand new school. I mean, they weren’t even-finished-building-it-yet brand new.

With a new team.

A new principal.

A brand new concept (for most of us), including the students.

And a whole load of my own insecurities and failures. Just a couple months in at the time of reading. I have been in education for about 16 years and it is common, for me, to feel like a failure, it is common for things to not work…quite…right. Or maybe it is just me?

Even if I am alone in my feeling of failure in the classroom, I will still share. Maybe someone else will learn that it is okay to face failure. Isn’t that what we tell our students? Every. Single. Day? And yet, like the article, we don’t often talk about it or give a place, that feels safe, to talk about it.

I am going to continue this another time, because I have more to say and I don’t have more time today. Until next time.

Use it or Don’t


Hot Links- Jan. 10, 2020

Building a PBL Classroom Culture with Reflective Conversations in Restorative Circles– PBL Works shares some tips.

How To Handle Brazen Behavior– Michael Linsin with another reminder of how we can deal with behaviors that can be a challenge in the classroom, like running in the classroom, ignoring directions, roughhousing and more.

Developing Intrinsic Motivation with Choice– Responsive classroom writes about the value of choice in the classroom.

Game show classroom: Comparing Kahoot!, Quizizz, Quizlet Live and Gimkit – Matt Miller compares the different quiz games for the classroom.

Happy Friday