You Can Be a Struggler Without Being a Failure

If you’ve been reading my Sanity Boosts for awhile, you know I’m not always about sunshine and flowers. I share my struggles as well as my victories, and I know(believe me, I know!) that teaching is not easy.

What if we could re-frame our struggles into something beneficial and powerful?

Even after a few successful years of teaching we can still struggle at times. In those moments it’s easy to blame ourselves, the students, the administration, the families, and/or society in general. It’s tempting to give in to feelings of helplessness and anger.

What if we could re-frame our struggles into something beneficial and powerful instead?

Once I learned to accept the challenge of productive struggle, I learned that I could improve through my own efforts.

Yesterday I attended a conference, and in one of the breakout sessions I watched a video of a high school AP calculus student explain about productive struggle. She said, “This year I learned you can be a struggler without being a failure. I learned you can get something out of struggle. I used to hate math because I looked at struggle as something bad that I needed to avoid. Once I learned to accept the challenge of productive struggle, I learned that I could improve through my own efforts.”

But let’s face it. Sometimes struggle doesn’t feel that way. It just feels hard and frustrating. It feels like failure. And maybe it is. I’ve had plenty of “failures” in my teaching. In fact, I had several just last week. But as we tell our students, mistakes are how we learn. It’s the Edison quote about no mistakes, just 10,000 things that didn’t work out.

Here’s the thing with teaching. There’s always more to learn. There’s always an approach you never thought of that might work. And if you try something new and it STILL doesn’t work, at least you learned that new thing. Maybe it will come in handy next year.

Stop the failure self-talk and ask yourself, “What’s the next best step I can take?”

So stop the failure self-talk and ask yourself, “What’s the next best step I can take?” If you don’t know the next best step the question becomes, “How can I find out?” Break your problem into parts. Can you solve one part? How can that help you solve another part? If a solution doesn’t work, what can you learn for next time?

As teachers, the stakes are high. We want to do the “right” thing for our students. But I think we also need to remember what we tell them all the time: mistakes are how you learn.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina@AwesomeTeacherNation.com

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