Even Teachers Make Mistakes: How to Bounce Back from Blunders

By Patrick Kelley, author of Teaching Smarter

Even Teachers Make Mistakes: How to Bounce Back from BlundersHad a bad day? Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s not. Either way, the next day in the classroom matters!

Maybe you lost your cool and argued with a student. Maybe you showed up late or were obviously underprepared for a lesson. Without glorifying our mistakes, it is important to know that, if handled properly, those mistakes can endear us to our students. It’s what we do next that matters. Here is a simple three-step plan for bouncing back from a bad day:

1. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room. You can say, “Hey, I want to apologize to all of you for (insert your mistake). I have no excuses or justifications. I did wrong, and I am sorry.” Who isn’t impressed by a sincere apology—one that comes without excuses? This is a lesson politicians may still need to learn, but we teachers are smarter than that.

2. Right the wrong if possible. If you did any damage, then do what you can to fix it. Otherwise, your apology was a lie. “Hey, because my lesson ran long yesterday, we never got to play Jeopardy like we were supposed to. So today, we’re going to play an extra 15 minutes.”

3. Give extra thought and effort to the next day’s lesson plan. The best way to put a bad day behind you is to follow it with a good one. Many of us have that one lesson plan up our sleeve that rocks. Now’s the time to use it! Students tend to recall only what you have done lately. They’re generally good about not letting the pain of yesterday get in the way of fun today.

Do you have that day-saving lesson plan? Think back: What lesson would your students rank as the number one of all time? It’s a good idea to have at least one lesson like that—stick it in a file marked “Fixing a Bad Day” or “Disaster Kit.” I find that I need to keep mine fully stocked at all times.

We all make mistakes. But if you apologize sincerely, right any wrongs, and follow your bad day with a great one, you show your students that even teachers are still learning. Your mistake may end up bringing you closer to your class.

How do you and your students bounce back from blunders in the classroom?

Author Patrick Kelley, M.A.Patrick Kelley, M.A., has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from California State University San Bernardino and a bachelor’s degree in history from Castleton State College in Vermont. He has been a classroom teacher for more than twenty-five years. He has experience as a mentor teacher and an AP coordinator as well as ten years of experience with the AVID program. He is certified in Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) and currently works with the International Baccalaureate program. Patrick provides workshops and presentations to districts, schools, and teams. Visit him at www.patrickkelleybooks.com.

Teaching SmarterPatrick is the author of Teaching Smarter: An Unconventional Guide to Boosting Student Success.


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