Tag Archives: challenges of teaching

You Can’t Win Them All

Teaching can be very satisfying, but it isn’t easy. I (Clive) just received my course Clive Beckevaluation for last term and was reminded that “you can’t win them all.” I thought the course was my best ever, and most students rated it as “excellent.” But some just said it was “very good” (hmmm – why was that?) and one gave it a “good” or “moderate” on every item (what’s their problem?!).

 

One of the most important principles in teaching, I think, is that you can’t win them all. Some people don’t like it because it implies you aren’t going to try hard enough: it lets you off the hook. But on the one hand, it helps you be realistic and maintain your morale as a teacher; and on the other, it reminds you that everybody’s different. Different people want different things from a course and have different views on how to teach. Yes we should try to meet every student’s needs in a course, but no we shouldn’t be surprised or become dispirited when some students are not ecstatic about our teaching approach.

Gold StarBut come to think of it, if I found some good videos and varied the class format more, maybe I would get excellent from everyone…. Just joking!

 

Strategies for Maintaining Motivation and Satisfaction as a Teacher (and Teacher Educator)

Teaching is challenging. As David Labaree (2004) says:

“[T]eaching is an extraordinarily difficult form of professional practice. It is grounded in the necessity of motivating cognitive, moral, and behavioral change in a group of involuntary and frequently resistant clients.” (pp. 55-56)

In our study of teachers, we (Clive and Clare) have been struck BOTH by the many challenges the teachers face AND how well they maintain their morale despite the challenges. Of the original cohort of 22 who began in 2004, none have quit teaching (though 2 have left the study) and none have experienced a substantial, permanent decline in motivation, though they have their ups and downs. When in 2012 we asked them explicitly about their motivation over the years, their responses were as follows:

     Average Motivation of Cohort 1 (18 interviewed) Over Their First Eight Years (Scale 1-5)

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6 Year 7 Year 8
4.7 4.4 4.4 4.4 4.1 3.8 3.8 4.2

 Interestingly, their highest motivation was in year 1. Though they were stressed and exhausted, they were excited to be doing what they had dreamed of for so long.

As for the strategies they used to keep up their morale, we noted the following:

  • Acknowledging the inherent challenges and limits of teaching – “it’s not just you”
  • Taking a broad approach to teaching, so it’s more social, meaningful, enjoyable
  • Becoming more skilled and effective as a teacher
  • Maintaining a work-life balance: having a life beyond teaching
  • Remembering why you became a teacher in the first place (see quotes below)

“Teaching is getting harder, and I’ve changed in that I would no longer recommend it to everyone…. However, I like it because I’m a doer, I enjoy being creative, and I like being challenged.” (Felicity, year 7)

“I’m happy to go to school [because] you just never know what’s going to happen; it’s always a new day.” (Jody, year 8)

“When things were going in a wrong direction [recently] with my school administration and in the school district, it brought me back to why I was there, why I wanted to be a teacher: working with the kids, dealing with their issues, getting down to the fundamentals of teaching them.” (John, year 8)

Great strategies! Good for teachers – and teacher educators too!