Lessons Learned from the Worst Lesson Ever

August 29, 2017 No Comments

Lessons Learned from the Worst Lesson Ever

August 29, 2017 No Comments

Teacher friends, today was a hard day.

I walked out of my classroom this afternoon with my head hung and my confidence shot.  This afternoon, in my seventh year of teaching, I experienced one of the worst lessons I have ever taught.  It wasn’t pretty.

Let me give you some backstory to start.  My grade level recently agreed to pilot a new math program.  We were super excited to get our materials — student books, teacher guides, tons of new math manipulatives, center games, and more — and begin teaching this week.  We planned last week and, over the weekend, I poured over the new materials to prepare for the coming week.  I knew that my students would struggle with the material, so I prepared some supplemental materials.  We were ready.

Sometimes, however, you just can’t be prepared enough.  I don’t know if it was the material was too hard or the fact that it was directly after lunch and the attention span of my third graders was lacking. When my students’ eyes started to glaze over and their attentiveness started to fade, I realized the lesson was going south.  I tried to redirect and pull out some fun, hands-on material… only to be met with what seemed like chaos.  Too much.  Too soon.  It was a disaster.  They were lost and I was only confusing them more.

The lesson bombed.  HARD.

I am a seventh year teacher, by no means a pro, but also far from a beginner.  I’ve grown tremendously in the last seven years and I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work.  I’ve also learned that sometimes, no matter how much you prepare and plan for the unexpected… sometimes, your lesson just sucks.

And you know what?  It’s okay.

My confidence took a major blow and we lost nearly an hour of instructional time, but it’s okay.  After the manipulative fiasco, I had my students calmly put away their materials (they did so wonderfully) and close their books.  After taking a quick thumbs up/thumbs down assessment of the room to confirm my fears that about four of my students were understanding today’s lesson, I did something some teachers would never dare to do.

I apologized.

Even reflecting upon the lesson, I’m not sure where it went wrong, but I know that it was not my students’ fault.  It was mine.  I apologized to my students and assured them that it wasn’t their fault that they didn’t understand.  I told them we’d come back to it tomorrow after I’d had time to come up with a better plan.  Then, we moved on.

Bad lessons happen, teachers.  It does not matter how prepared you are or how well you know the content or your students, bad lessons happen.  Hopefully, they do not happen often, but they will happen.  You show the kind of teacher you are by how you react to it.  Will you blame your students for not paying attention or understanding?  Or will you reflect upon your practice and work to be better?  There’s always a lesson for you to learn.

Keep at it, teacher friends.  Your students depend on you.  And remember, even on the bad days, you make a difference.


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  • Adam Watson September 3, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    Thank you for being brave enough to fail forward!

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    About Me

    Hi! My name is Sheryl and I am so thankful you've found your way to the TeacherLadyKY blog! I'm an elementary educator from Louisville, Kentucky who is passionate about building relationships and literacy skills with my students, as well as empowering teachers around me to be leaders and rockstars. I've taught everything from kindergarten to fifth grade and I can't wait to share my experiences with you! Enjoy! Read More


    • Anyone else read two books at once? I keep switching between the two of these. They both started out slower than I wanted, but are starting to pick up.

Brave, Not Perfect is about learning to combat your inner perfectionist and focusing on being brave instead.  It’s a powerful message that more people need to hear and take to heart, myself included.

Everything All At Once is the story of Lottie, whose very famous writer aunt recently passed away, leaving her with 24 letters that includes directions for accomplishing specific tasks. It’s starting to get really good!

#bookstagram #booksofinsta #bookstagrammer #bookstagramit #bravenotperfect #everythingallatonce #teachersofinstagram #summerreading #summerreadinglist #teachersonsummerbreak
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From there, Annabelle ruled the house. She sat co-pilot in the car. She was the absolute best snuggler. She loved wearing clothes. She could smile bigger than any dog I’ve ever met. 
She was also a mess and a half. She stole food from wherever she could get it. She was jealous - of other dogs, of Justin, of my new nieces. She plopped herself in my lap anytime she could to claim her territory, but when she was mad at me, refused to turn her face to look at me.

She was the leader of the pack, the first of four. 
Today we had to do the hardest thing I, personally, have ever had to do. Having a dog as an adult is way different than having a dog as a kid. My heart is broken into a million pieces. Mama loves you, Belly girl.
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It was a beautiful reminder of the beauty - and the chaos - that comes from walking the unknown, just because you felt like it.

#audacious #audaciousbook #bookstagram #bookstagrammers #teachersofinstagram #teachersonsummerbreak #kentuckyteacher #teacherswhoread #youngadultreads #youngadultnovel #youngadultlit #yalit #ya #read #reader #readersofig
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Up next on my summer reading list is #bravenotperfect by @reshmasaujani.

#summerreading #summertime #teacherswhoread #teachersonsummerbreak #bookstagram #bookshelf #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers #stopteacherguilt
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I don’t know if I love this angle quite as much.

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I’m often frustrated with what I feel is a lack of progress. I feel stuck. I want to move forward faster. I know there is work to be done and it must be done soon - or every child that leaves our schools and our classrooms will be another that we’ve failed.
We DO have work to do. But small steps create big impacts. I can do a little today and, one day, I’ll see those ripples.
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