A Teaching Problem or a Teaching Sympton?


Practical Teaching Tip: Take a deep breath, step back mentally to neutralize your view of your teaching situation, assess, then choose one – whether you have a teaching problem or a teaching symptom. Give that one your priority of a finite block of time to resolve the matter.  

Do you have a teaching problem or a teaching symptom? Do you know how to tell the difference and what to do with the difference?

I base these differences on several decades of watching and listening to teachers practicing their craft in and out of classrooms as well as listening to their discussions of their personal lives. I’ve found these distinctions useful for assisting teachers to resolve their own challenges in classrooms.

When teachers think they have a problem teaching, they engage a set of negative emotions that appear to create more problems teaching.

It eats at their self confidence, even when others have no challenge or even praise and appreciate their teaching. They have expressed guilt, shame, and “frustration” among other ways of downgrading themselves.

This self labeling can turn a simple, fixable matter into a disruption from helping students to assimilate smoothly into society through learning instructed lessons.

In turn, this disruption can compound frustration and thus lessen a teacher’s core enjoyment of teaching.

For example, teachers have personal lives outside of classrooms. having clear schedules and other boundaries between personal and public/professional lives can be adjusted to reduce or increase preparation time for class duties. Teachers by their choices can use or ignore this flexibility in ways that reduce classroom problems under their control.

At the same time, teaching symptoms appear when personal lives intrude into time and effort available for preparing for future instruction. Intrusions range from schedules that family responsibilities overlap with preparation for class time.

Theoretically, teachers negotiate these schedules privately in order not to generate a teaching problem that results in a negative evaluation through low student grades, parent questions, or more serious problems that challenge employment.