Every teacher has had a bad day at school. You know the one I mean. It was the day when absolutely nothing went right.

Your lesson was a flop and students were out of control. The last bell of the day found you sitting behind your desk trying to figure out what went wrong. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself the next time things go awry.

Did I bring my “A” game?

That’s the first question I ask myself. My students deserve a teacher who gives 110% every day. However, some days it’s harder to do that, than others. Life has a way of seeping into everything we do. When things go wrong, it’s important that teachers have the ability to self-critique. Be slow to place the blame on your students, but willing to ask yourself the hard questions. This is tough to do, but necessary if we want to reach every student. It’s what separates good teachers from great ones.

Was it my fault?

Someone who is not able to admit a mistake often makes things worse. You’re not doing yourself, or your students any favours by refusing to take responsibility for your actions. Outstanding teachers use those experiences as teachable moments. Some of my best lessons were built on mistakes I had made the day before.

Was I there for my students?

Students have a built in radar system that detects whether a teacher cares about them or not. They can read us like books and know whether we are authentic. Our students have a lot going on in their lives. Some of those things may seem trivial to adults. However, it is not to them. My students always take precedence over my lessons. Their social and emotional welfare is my top priority every day. Academic excellence is a direct result of healthy happy students and a teacher who cares.

Did I create a platform for debate?

How do you handle a student who is disruptive and disobedient? One of the worst things a teacher can do when things go wrong is to create a stage for conflict. Yelling and screaming does not work. All it does is show your students that you are out of control. It also forces them to take a side. Guess what? They are not going to take yours. That doesn’t mean a teacher can’t stop class to have a frank discussion about classroom expectations and protocol. What it does mean is that teachers need to learn how to control their emotions. “Blowing up” in front of the class will do nothing to garner the respect of your students or regain control of the classroom. Take a deep breath when things go wrong and think about what you are going to do next and how it will impact your students going forward.

Were my students involved in shaping the culture of my classroom?

I meet with my students the very first day of school to establish a set of classroom norms. The students have an opportunity to discuss what they want out of the class and what rules need to be in place for it to operate effectively. I immediately get “buy in” from my students because they are involved in the process. During the course of the year, students learn how to self correct and encourage one another to make the right decisions because they feel like they have ownership.

Remember, great classroom management skills are important ingredients in the recipe for classroom success.

By Joe Fatheree

Joe teaches media production and innovation at the Effingham High School in Illinois, US. He is the recipient of several education awards. His fresh approach to teaching and learning made him a key contender and top 10 finalist in the Global Teacher Prize 2016.

  • Graham Wride

    All legitimate points; however, what about administrative support – they have a role to play and a stake in this process as well – are they providing adequate support, be it in a practical or emotive fashion and do they take the time to observe the classroom environment so as to offer considered critique?