10 Ways Real Teachers Recover From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
We don’t have to tell you this, but teachers are not superhuman—at least not all the time. We doubt ourselves. We struggle to reach our students and, despite our exhaustion, we often lie awake at night replaying the day, wondering how in the world things could have possibly gone so wrong.
But there’s good news: You aren’t alone.
To help you put things into perspective and find constructive ways to recover from what one of our favorite authors would call a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day,” we reached out to fellow teachers and asked them to share their best recovery strategies. The response was overwhelming and for that reason, this blog is going to be divided up into two parts.
Without further ado, here is part one of 10 Ways Real Teachers Recover From a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Class.
- “Rescue Remedy herbal drops under the tongue. Breathe.”
- “Several years ago, I started putting student notes, parent thank yous, administrative accolades and the like in a notebook. On those REALLY bad days, I take it out and remember all of the wonderful students and experiences I have had along the way. It's not a cure-all, but it does help me regain perspective and remember why I do what I do.”
- “I always try to learn from it. I look at the lesson and the kids. I've had lessons and units that one class might love and the other classes just hate. So I may tweak it a bit or decide the class was just not a good fit with that lesson.”
- “Remember that everyone has an off day, you are a good teacher and you tried your best. Also, always try something new; it does not always work but at least you tried.”
- “I find positive things that happened in the same class period. I call home about these positive tidbits. It goes a long way with the students that actually do what they are supposed to and helps me realize my small victories. I always feel tons better after bragging on students.”
- “Often, I have to remind my students that I'm a human being and make mistakes. If I've been a disastrous teacher, I find open apology actually earns the teacher some serious cred. If I've bolloxed-up a lesson, I make it right by re-explaining. But it is a reflective process. Look at it as a chance to reflect on your practice.
Another suggestion: Go for a hike (even if it's a local park) and sit and read some Emerson. Look at the trees and rock formations that have been here so much longer than we have and realize that your problems really aren't problems in the grand scheme of things. Keep your chin up!”
- Mr. Hamlin
- “I am usually willing to admit my mistakes. I have a frank conversation with the class and say, ‘Hey, I messed up!’ It allows the students to see you're human and that we all make mistakes.
- I also talk to them about their responsibility in the debacle. What did they do to compound the situation? A disastrous class is rarely just one party’s fault. Sometimes a written reflection helps: as the students write theirs, you write one of your own.”
- “I straight up, tell my next class(es) that I'm having an ‘off’ day—and I sometimes explain why. If I'm short tempered for any reason, I also tell them that ‘it's not them, it's me.’ I ask them if they can think of anything to make me smile (usually they do), I paste on a smile and move along with the lesson. But then when I get home, I go for a super long run: outside and with music playing loudly. Very loudly.”
- “I'm pretty frank with my middle school classes. I just let them know that I, too, realize that what we just did didn't work and we will try again tomorrow. They are pretty understanding and appreciate the honesty. We are teachers who work hard to do what's best for our kiddos. We are nowhere near perfect and can't beat ourselves up over a bad lesson. Learn from it and move on.”
- “Keep a ‘Why I Do This’ folder, virtually and physically. Inside, place any positive and supportive item you’ve ever received from a student, parent, or colleague, and pull it out on days like that.”