Stop the Excuses
Excuses, regardless of how cleverly they are fashioned, really don’t matter. This article is not geared toward refuting your students’ excuses but rather your own. Now think, what type of shrewd excuses are you planning to make this year as to why your students are not going to succeed? I know this sounds ridiculous, but isn’t this what really happens? Do you believe, not hope, but truly believe that each of your students will pass your class with a minimum of a “B”? The truth is, even if your response was positive, you probably are second-guessing yourself at this moment; after all, it’s probably impossible, isn’t it? Please allow me to answer my hypothetical question with several realistic responses. (While tempted, I’ve chosen to leave my sarcastic nature out of this list.)
Excuses that teachers make:
- The students don’t take their studies seriously.
- The students are inept.
- The curriculum is confusing and too complicated.
- I don’t have the tools that I need to help the students.
- The student’s previous teacher did not prepare them.
My high school soccer coach taught me that there is no such thing as a good excuse, so refrain from making excuses. Daily, our students create some of the most outlandish excuses that we do not accept; yet, we justify why our students will not thrive. Excuses hold little merit; allow me to negate the five excuses listed above.
- The students don’t take their studies seriously because the teacher has not given them reason to take it seriously. They see through your lack of preparation, and perhaps your lack of care. There may be a handful of students that fit this category, but this is not a valid excuse. Find a way to teach them to care.
- What gives anyone the right to determine that someone is incapable of succeeding? In this case, perhaps the teacher is inept, lazy, and/or misguided.
- It’s never the curriculum; it’s always the teacher. The teacher is the center of the classroom, not the students or curriculum.
- Technology and tools are a luxury, not a necessity. Great teachers find a way to succeed.
- Perhaps the previous teacher did not prepare them, but that does not give you the right to quit on the entire year. It’s a fresh start and you can do your best to bridge the gap. A poor start, because of low expectations, will result in a long year with few bright points.
What can we do to encourage our students to give their very best each and every day? I’m glad you asked. Here are three simple things that if implemented consistently and diligently can transform your classroom.
First, be personable with your students; get to know them. Don’t build an imaginary fortress between you and the precious lives that you are responsible to educate. Show them that you care for them, their families, and their interests. Due to lack of understanding, teachers often construct that imaginary barrier to better manage the classroom when in reality it cripples them. Just as a parent knows his child, you should understand your student. Society often errors in its belief that parent and child are equals; don’t think that I am asking you to make the same blunder. Students should respect, honor, and obey their teachers, as they are authorities in their lives. Students will work harder for a warm and caring teacher that encourages them than they will for a cold and distant dictator that rules with an iron fist.
Next, be prepared. You aren’t fooling your students when you are not properly organized. The success of your students lies more in your preparation than in your presentation. You can be the most eloquent of individuals, but your students know when you put in the time to prepare for them. When they see preparation on your part, they are willing to put forth the extra effort. Any teacher can teach from the curriculum but a great teacher will use the curriculum as a guide and build upon it in a way that will greater benefit his students.
Lastly, be persistent. You only have nine months to leave your mark on each student. It’s easy to start strong but it takes real perseverance to finish strong. Your feelings or moods cannot determine your attitude; you must remain consistent the entire year. More often than not it is easy to give up on a student based on his attitude, but that does not give you the excuse to give up. If your goal is for all your students to pass with a minimum of a “B” then that will require effort by the student and real persistence by you.
There are no guarantees that every student you encounter will work hard, but you should be confident at the end of the year that you did everything in your power to help him succeed. Stop making excuses as to why your students can’t succeed in your class and start working to better prepare them for life.