How to Deal When Things Go Awry

This year was going to be amazing. You planned, you prepared, you knew it was going to be the best yet. Then it wasn’t. Now what?

First, know that we’ve all been there. Every teacher has experienced this to some degree. It could be a particular student who undermines the classroom management, the time of day, or an entire class that just seems to not care or not get it.

Whatever it is, you’re not alone. Take a minute, breathe, and know there is help.

Your colleagues and other teachers are the greatest resource you have when facing a tough classroom situation. They can help you brainstorm, reflect, and plan strategies to address any issues.

Remember, colleagues can be from other schools, other districts, Facebook, wherever, if they understand your situation. Don’t be afraid to branch outside of your school/ team for advice!

Since I can’t address every issue here, this will be your best asset. Find those with positive ideas and advice, not those who simply bemoan the “bad” students. You want solutions, not snark.

In order to get the best advice, you need to be prepared to explain the issue and its roots.

This means taking a good, hard look at yourself, your teaching, your planning, your class setup, and your students. As a seasoned teacher, I do this everyday.

But, it’s hard. You are honestly evaluating yourself; not just what you wanted the lesson to be, but what it honestly was for that class.

When something doesn’t work out the way you planned, what caused the disconnect? Is it a lack of student interest in the lesson? If so, you’re asking colleagues for ways they engage students.

Is it a particular student who is disruptive? If so, you’re asking about interventions for that student. Others who know this student (parents, counselors, teachers, administration, the student themself) may have insight to help.

Is it a climate of fun rather than learning (when you wanted both)? If so, ask for ways to reset your class expectations and goals with the students.

The hardest part here is being honest with yourself. Remember, you only grow as a teacher if you reflect on your teaching honestly, and asking for help from others will help you grow.

Once you have zeroed in on why you are struggling, you can begin to find solutions. No one solution works all the time, so ask, try, ask again, try again. What works in one situation may not work the next time.

This is building your skills for the future. In a few years, maybe next year, you will be the one being asked for advice. And you will have success stories to share with the new teachers who need to hear them to get through their struggles.


This article was first published in NEA Today Magazine.