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May 03

Teaching Tip: Develop Thick Skin

If you are a tender hearted person that takes every little comment personally then teaching might not be the profession for you.  The reason I say this is because no matter where you go, what you see, or even the students in your class you will hear some people say “if only there were better teachers”.  Now do not get me wrong there are bad teachers out there just like there are good teachers, no different than good cops and bad, competent doctors and those that should not be in the profession, and on and on with any career position.  If you take their comments personally you will just end up losing your will to make a difference and the bureaucratic system that has become education as we now know it in the United States will have beaten you down to where you do not even want to teach anymore.

I came up this teaching tip just recently when I gave my students the assignment of being a newly elected president and coming up with what they think are the 5 major issues of the day and finding solutions to those issues.  My students have done a really good job coming up with current issues and tackling them head on.  I will also say that current politicians could learn a thing or two from my students about not pussyfooting around and coming up with commonsense reasonable solutions to issues like the debt, entitlements, immigration reform, terrorism, and same-sex marriage.  They came up with a variety of issues and a full range of solutions for those issues, but one topic came up over and over again which was education.

Now when they first started this assignment they were putting very little thought into the project just using generalizations like raise taxes or lower taxes and make teachers better.  Of course after some prodding and giving them thought provoking situations they really turned it on and came up with some really thought provoking solutions.  Of course, I had to give them a little bit of jive for saying the key to education is to have better teachers, by asking “so what are you trying to tell me.”  Now to their credit they would say ‘we are not talking about you’.  I would also agree with them that if all teachers taught well all schools would be better, but all also asked them if all students were at school to learn and cherished school wouldn’t schools be better?  Maybe if all parents participated not only in school but at home helping with homework, getting you to read, or giving you opportunities to learn outside of school wouldn’t school be better?  Of course they agreed with me and then I told them that “we are all in the same boat together and sink or sail it is up to all of us.”  I then had to get one last joke in and told them that it was nice to know that it was all my fault that no matter how many times and ways I went over the information in my class if I would have only done it better they would be perfect students.

Teachers are far from perfect and there are too many of them out there that bring down the profession, but you cannot take every comment, passing word from a student, or news article that is negative towards the teaching profession personal.  If you do that it will be a losing battle.  All you need to do is go into your classroom every day and act like you are teaching your own child knowing that you want them to have a quality education.  You must have that mindset because in this day and age it seems most people believe it is solely up to you, the teacher, to provide it.

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