You can lead a horse to water, but you can't
make him drink.
You can lead a kid to a book, but you can't make him think.
Or can you?
I've just finished my
13th year of teaching... Or is it my 14th? Ah, the
years all start to blur together, don't they? Not this
last year though. This one I'll never forget. This
was the year that everything changed for me -- and for my
students! This has been the best year of my career!
Over the years, I've definitely had
periods of burnout. There have been times that I had to
drag myself into that classroom. Boy, have you ever had
those classes where it felt like it was you against them?
Like every day, every lesson, every test was a struggle?
They didn't want to be there... and you didn't either?
Three years ago, I was in major burnout
mode. Even though I was still doing a "good job"
(preparing my lessons, explaining things well, getting SOME kids
to succeed), the whole thing felt like such an effort.
Sure, I would have glimpses of enjoyment with the job... I
had some really nice students during that time and I certainly
enjoyed them... But, overall... The big picture...
It just wasn't going the way I thought it should be.
Why could I only get such a small
percent of the students to do well? Why would only some of
them put forth the effort to study and try to do their best?
How was it that I could explain things so clearly, yet have so
many kids still fail my exams?
What's wrong with students these days?
Why won't they do any work? Is it me? Is it
Even during the times I wasn't burned out,
these questions still plagued me. Burnout or not, I'll bet
these questions have run through your head over the years too.
This has become the worm in the apple for many a teacher.
I found the answer this year. It was
very simple. IT WAS ME! Yes, even though I
was considered to be one of the "good" teachers on campus, it
I started to drastically revamp my
teaching style three years ago (to fix the burnout). (I'll
talk about this stuff in other articles.) This all really
helped and more students were doing well in my classes, but a
piece of the puzzle was still missing.
It finally all clicked in with me last May
when I realized that my job is NOT to teach math, my job is to
get these kids to want to learn and succeed! If I could do
this, then the whole "learning math" thing would come along for
I am not a math
teacher... I am a motivational speaker!
I don't think we teachers really grasp the
importance of our jobs -- more importantly, the impact we have
on our students. We are not in that classroom to transmit
history facts or grammar rules or math formulas... Read
this next sentence five times before moving on... We are in
that classroom to change lives. And the impact we have
can be good or bad -- it's rarely neutral.
So, what did I do to transform myself into
a motivating animal? Several things -- some seeming very small,
but having a huge impact. I highly recommend the following
Bringing Out the Best in People: How to
Enjoy Helping Others Excel and The Power of Optimism -- both by
Alan Loy McGinnis
After reading these, here are some things
I did to make the change:
Now, I know what that one missing piece of
the puzzle was: My attitude!