Welcome to my blog, where I’ll be sharing experiences, ideas, and resources that contributed to my classroom success and that of teachers I’ve coached—failures included, since what works in the classroom often comes in response to what doesn’t work.
And almost nothing worked for me as a first-year teacher at Chicago’s Manley High School in 1993. Just six weeks in, and with my classroom already up for grabs, injury to insult came when I was decked by a stray elbow while trying to break up a fight. Yet that physical blow was far less staggering than the emotional one I sustained just five minutes later. As I walked downstairs for an icepack, I looked out the window and saw a young man’s body in a pool of blood. I never felt more hopeless.
There’s more to the story, but the point is that I hung in there and eventually turned things around in my classroom. It’s with that turnaround in mind as well as those early struggles that I devote this first post to offering hope and help for teachers whose own classrooms are now up for grabs. And I start with some great news: it’s your fault. Now before you click out of here or send me a nasty reply, I’m not alone on this, as Martin Haberman points out in his book, Star Teachers: “Discipline experts are unanimous in their agreement that teachers cause most of their own classroom problems and then escalate them further rather than defuse them.”
So how is this great news? Think about it—it’s a lot easier to solve problems you’re causing than those beyond your control. To accept more popular explanations for your classroom woes—“it’s the students” or “the parents” or “the administration” or “the system”—is to accept powerlessness. So I’m not trying to blame you, but rather empower you. You don’t deserve classroom chaos now any more than I deserved an elbow to the face in ’93. But it’s only when we accept responsibility for what’s wrong in our classrooms that we’re able to make things right.
And when it comes to making things right, there’s no time like the present. So click here for a turnaround plan that’ll help you survive this year and, hopefully, thrive in future years.