Excuses

It’s easy to say ‘I didn’t have a choice’.  It’s easy to say ‘There was no option’.  When we say it we’re basically saying, it wasn’t my fault, it was out of my control and there is nothing I could have done.

When we do that, we make excuses and we look for someone or something to blame.  In education, we do this, all.the.time:

‘The system, is broken’

‘Those are the rules in the school’

‘I was told to do it’

‘There’s a curriculum/syllabus/lesson plan we have to follow’

‘The students are a nightmare’

‘There’s not enough time to prepare’

‘The parents are a nightmare’

Every time we do this, we make excuses and blame others for why our lessons are poor or why we can’t be better teachers, better parents, better co-workers, better friends, better at our job in general.

Being accountable

It’s that mentality that causes the most damage, to those who have that mentality, and to those around them.  I saw a TED video just the other day titled –Confidence is contagious! Ha, it was talking about how our body language, manner and verbal expressions are contagious to others around us.  Wow, so if we surround ourselves with that mentality- it’s never my fault, we will adapt that same mentality. Done, 95% probability you will start thinking like that.

It all comes back to accountability. Owning it. Which of course means a change in thinking.  Not an easy task by any measure.  We are complex beings and there are so many outside forces that effect us, that it takes a lot to withstand the onslaught of them all and do what’s right. But who said it was easy? Maybe it’s hard, but you DO have a CHOICE. You can choose to pass the buck, or you can own it.

Teachers, if we want our respect, we need to hold ourselves accountable.  We need to change our mentality about what a teacher is, and we need to connect with our students so that we can make better decisions on the lessons we prepare and how we approach the classroom.

You don’t need to be the center of attention

I’ll give you an example. Here at the summer camp I work at, I run a workshop for teachers with some practical advice on how to utilize the resources available to them, to prepare their lessons.  Some teachers who come here get very stressed and find it difficult to deliver quality lessons day in and day out.  Others are quite new at teaching and so need a bit of guidance on this.  One of the points I try to emphasize in the workshop to all who attend is that students have just spent a whole school year doing exercises, quizzes, tests and more exercises.  Their teachers typically lecture them on the grammar rules and then give them homework to practice the rules.  It’s summer time, the kids are in England, they want to enjoy the experience.  So don’t do the same thing.  Get them talking, get them moving around, get them practicing what they have done exercises on but haven’t had a chance to actually use.  Give them that chance, give them a communicative task where they have to work with their classmates, collaborate and practice what they’ve only done on paper.  That is your goal and purpose as a summer school/camp teacher.

What does this do? Well, it allows the teacher to take a step back, and observe, correct and monitor students while THEY work. Teachers like to lecture and teaching, to them, means doing all this talking in front of class!  NO! I’ll say it again: no! Break the vicious cycle.  Prepare a communicative task that gets the students moving and talking and exchanging information and learning about each other.  They come from all over the world and have a once in lifetime opportunity to learn about each other and you want to have them sit there and listen to you teaching them the second conditional rules. How do you think that is going to turn out?

No wonder you are tired, no wonder you are stressed, no wonder your students are falling asleep in your lessons and ignoring you.  Because you are ignoring them, you are too busy worrying about what you are doing instead of worrying about them and what they need.

Putting in the work

Own it, be accountable.  There is always a choice, there is always an option, take it.  Step up and make the harder choice, be accountable for what you do.  It’s a mentality that makes you a better person.  That’s when people respect you, not when you wait for them to tell you what to do, but when you do what you know needs to be done.  It means putting in the work, not going on the internet and printing a prepared lesson that has exercises for your students.  Not when you photocopy page after page of worksheets.  That’s baling out, that’s passing the buck.

It’s the same with anything really.  I focus on us teachers, but the same applies to anyone out there, doing any kind of job.  There’s this mentality that we are entitled, that we deserve something.  Well, I won’t hesitate here, you’re not entitled.  You don’t inherently deserve any privileges. Nobody is, except the queen maybe. Don’t get me started on her….

You have a choice

Take a step back, and look around in your class, are your students happy to be there.  If not, then you have a choice, not an excuse.  You have an option, always, to change the mentality and take action.  I try to tell my leadership class this when they start working on their projects.  Don’t just present information to me, tell me what you are going to do, take action, action, ACTION! I have to repeat it, just like that, because they don’t comprehend it at first.  No power-point slide with info? No! Show me action, show me what you are going to do about it.  People are inspired to change when they see you take action, not when you just show them statistics and information.  It’s a mentality. One step, each day. How can I improve my teaching? How can I make the next lesson better? How can I make the next 2,3,4,5 lessons better?  Same with anything, or anyone. You are contagious! Spread the right mentality, set the example.

Now, what are you going to do?

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