7 Things the Best Teachers Will Regret This School Year

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photo credit: Look back via photopin (license)

Regret. It’s a sad, lonely emotion. Many teachers suffer powerful regret every school year.

The best educators reflect on the regrets, rebuild themselves, and become great. Do you have greatness in you?

7 Things the best teachers will regret this school year

1 – Assigning traditional homework

This year, you’ll read Alfie Kohn’s The Homework Myth or Sara Bennett’s The Case Against Homework, or some other research or article that illuminates the deleterious effects of traditional homework. You will ask yourself why you assigned so much. You’ll wonder if it really helped your students grow. Of course, you’ll decide that Kohn, Bennett, and others are right, and you’ll wish you’d encouraged reading or self-selected project work instead.

2 – Embarrassing your students

At some point, all teachers are guilty of embarrassing students. Rarely, is it intentional. The best teachers remember every interaction with students and wonder if they handled it correctly. You’ll decide in at least one case that you embarrassed someone, and for a while, you’ll hate yourself.  Remember, great teachers also know how to forgive.

3 – Vilifying a colleague, parent, or administrator publicly

Do you remember that chat in the teacher’s lounge? It was just you and a trusted friend. You complained that your principal was clueless. Or maybe it was the ill-advised Facebook post, when you gave little consideration to angrily posting that parents know nothing about education and should let you do your job. Teachers are passionate people, and the best ones are confident. At the end of the school year, you’ll remember these conversations and social shares, and wish you could have them back.

4 – Punishing students for missing assignments

When students don’t turn in assignments, in most instances, it’s because the assignment is worthless. The best teachers reflect on every activity, project, and assessment. Great teachers realize that deducting points for late work or giving zeroes for missing assignments leads to failure and makes students hate learning. After this revelation, the best teachers promise to create more engaging activities and never give another zero.

5 – Emphasizing rules and consequences

If you live by the student handbook, you’ll punish many students for trivial mishaps like chewing gum, talking out, or moving about the room without your permission. Sure, these may be the rules, but followers always have regrets.

6 – Banning mobile devices

It’s the 21st century, and students bring the most powerful learning tool ever invented to school daily. Yet many teachers continue to ban iPhones, Kindles, Nooks, and iPods from their classes.

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As the year forges ahead, and you read more and more about the power of mobile learning, you’ll begin to have doubts about your policy. These doubts will most likely turn into regrets.

7 – Making excuses

Teachers have plenty of excuses:

  • My principal said I have to. . . .
  • It’s district policy.
  • It’s in the standards.
  • We have to be ready for the test.
  • I have to hold them accountable.
  • Parents don’t understand. . . .
  • I don’t have time.

You are passionate and driven to succeed, but you can’t stand failure, so you seek reasons why things didn’t go your way. Upon reflection, the best teachers loathe their excuses even more than their shortcomings.

What will you wish you’d done differently, when June arrives? Can you anticipate your own regrets?

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Mark Barnes is the Founder and CEO of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 115,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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