10 Ways to Fail As a Teacher

10_Ways_to_FailAt the end of each learning year I try to self-evaluate. As my children’s teacher, are there areas which could use some improvement? How can I help my children better understand what I’m trying to share with them? Is there anything I’m doing which is preventing my children from drawing closer to the Lord?

Perhaps my evaluation ought to begin with ways in which I could be failing. Hey, you have to start somewhere!

  1. Force Curriculum – While I’m all for exposing our children to various pursuits, and require our children learn all core subjects, there is a significant difference between mandatory subjects and forcing curriculum. Algebra is non-negotiable in our house, but I’m all for trying various companies and methods to find which works best for each child.
  2. Do Everything in a Book – Nothing frustrates a child more than having their nose stuck in a textbook all day. I need to make sure I’m offering a good balance of book work, hands-on projects, and active outside opportunities.
  3. Make Them Do Everything – I know there are a lot of awesome activities in that language arts book. It can be very tempting to make my kiddos do every-single-one. However, that might not be the best way to encourage a love of learning. I need to pick my battles and be willing to let a few stray addition problems go. On occasion. Maybe.
  4. Don’t Listen to Them – Am I talking over my kids? Constantly? Do I allow them to (respectfully) share their thoughts and opinions? Perhaps if I listened more, and truly heard them, we might get a little further.
  5. Confuse Them – Am I being too vague in my teaching? Am I explaining things fully or in a manner which they can understand? Am I teaching to them or at them? If I am teaching for the sake of teaching, with them taking nothing away, what is the point?
  6. Be Demanding – Do this! Do that! Come here! Sit down! Be quiet! (See the problem here?) None of this is being said with love, kindness, grace, or understanding. I need  to make sure I am tempering my responses, requests, and commands with affection. It helps; it really does!
  7. Offer No Free Time – I need to be careful how much time we are spending with organized activity. Too little can be an issue, but so can too much! Want to drive your kids crazy? Take away all free time.
  8. Refuse Questions – I know it’s frustrating being interrupted when you are in the middle of a thought. But, what if the interruption leads to wonderful things?! What if you need to be interrupted because your child just isn’t getting it?
  9. Lecture Often – This topic always conjures up images of Mr. Ben Stein. Me standing at the front of the ‘room’, book in hand, chalkboard behind; I’m droning on and on regarding a topic my kids have lost all interest in, thanks to my monologue. While I’m all for a pointed lesson on a given topic, I need to evaluate whether I’m being helpful or just speaking to hear my own voice. (Ouch!)
  10. Forget Character Training – Here’s a biggie!! While I don’t find public school teachers responsible for character training (they aren’t the parents after all), I cannot get by with this excuse. I AM the parent! It’s my job to train my child in the way he should go. Shoving through a stack of textbooks and paperwork does my child little good if I am not teaching them how to be righteous in the process.

I’d like to offer up a sigh of relief (and a quick chuckle); I’m not completely failing as a teacher. However, I can also see areas in which I might need to relax. I tend to want my children to finish every single problem, in every single book.

Overall, we’re doing pretty well. The kids love learning, we’re progressing nicely, and our family is centered on Christ. With His help we’re accomplishing more than I could have ever dreamed. Perhaps I’m not doing such a bad job after all.

“May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.”
– Deuteronomy 32:2

🔔Time to Chime In: List your top 3 ways to fail as a teacher!

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25 thoughts on “10 Ways to Fail As a Teacher

  1. I can relate here on all points. I’ve failed tremendously in many areas and what I’ve learned is to ask forgiveness. I’ve learned I have some character flaws myself and parenting, homeschooling and repenting have shown me more in the two years I’ve been teaching my children than I ever imagined. I used to believe curriculum had to be by the book, but I adopted the Charlotte Mason method and its done wonders in turning our everyday into a student centered and Christ centered education.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally over-plan everything. Then get frustrated when we don’t have time for it all. Also, I want so much to encourage discussion that sometimes I let them disrupt a lesson when I shouldn’t and then end up… getting frustrated because we’ve gotten off track. So I’d say allowing situations that frustrate me is my biggest fail. But knowing is half the battle, right?!

    Liked by 3 people

    • This is a personal failing as well. Then, I tend to berate myself for not completing everything on the ‘list’, even though I’m the one who put it on the list in the first place. (Silly me!)

      You bring up a good point. Sometimes disruptions need to be shelved for later discussions, if they pull from the main point. It doesn’t mean we CAN’T discuss those things, just at a later time. Words of wisdom!


  3. Before getting my degree, I worked as retail store manager for over a decade. So, I’m big on the create-review-review-review-create-repeat concept. Why I mention that is just to back up why I agree with you about a careful approach to healthy self-evaluation.

    The three areas where I think home educators can be led astray and then fail as teachers:

    1. Distraction: Homeschooling becomes a popularity contest; it’s mood (teacher morale?) and success is determined by blog stats, facebook likes, twitter followers and instagram comments. (C.G has picked up on the comparison issue on this blog before, so no need to really unpack it’s potentially negative impacts. but comparison would fit here.)

    2. Jargon: Losing that God-breathed joy, realistic creativity, responsible vision and passion for teaching, as a result of feeling pressured by the ivory-tower-talk of the often out of touch, tenured elite. Ergo, losing (or worse, hurting) our kids by default. e.g.: becoming obsessed, stressed and anxious about ‘red tape’; obsessing over always having planned and clear educational outcomes, meeting test scores, or just test scoring, etc.

    3. Lighten up: Feeling like a failure and not actually looking at the educational outcomes in retrospect. I think a lot of teachers are surprised when they look back over the year, month or week, (depending on how often we choose to review), only to discover that a whole lot more was achieved than originally thought. In a way pulling back the ”textbook fog” to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

    Having to courage to reflect on what did not work in order to turn that into fuel for genuine success is seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. It’s not easy, but it can inspire our kids and others to reach for responsible vulnerability, transparency, and authenticity with their own homeschooling and beyond.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have to fight with #3 — trying to teach her everything there is to know in one year and wanting to do every “cool” activity in the curricula we use.

    My teen daughter doesn’t let me get away with #6 — being demanding. I’ll say something like, “Gather your math books and come over here so we can get started.” I then hear “Saaayyy pleeeeeeze!” Lol

    As far as #7 — free time. I read an article a few months ago about a study that was done on classroom efficiency and productivity. Students who took a 10-15 minute break each hour (undirected, where they can choose whatever they want to do), got a lot more accomplished than those who went straight from one subject to the next.

    Today, my daughter developed her own system of taking notes about one page in her science textbook, then watching three items from a List25.com video (which only takes a couple of minutes). She was able to take notes from 12 pages of her textbook with little difficulty. Usually she feels lost in a brain fog after five or six pages. I thought that was a creative solution.

    List25 is a website we discovered last summer that lists interesting facts (via video or photos) for topics such as history, science, travel, “bizarre,” art, sports, and more.  (It’s not all educational, and I’ve stumbled across a small handful of things that were too graphic or inappropriate for us.  So if the title of the list looks questionable to you, you may want to screen it before showing it to your kids.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You provide a nice list of ten. We have found that some of these are more important than others with respect to our children. In other words, one son needed more free time between lessons while the other needed to be heard more.
    #2 is a very interesting one and easy to confuse or error on. We have had courses where it is simply impossible to read every book or do every lesson while with our maths it is mandatory. Even in math there are times where problems are excused.
    Education in general is a dynamic process, and this is where homeschooling should excel with us. We have the freedom to adjust our curriculum, time and even location in order to enhance learning. This is where formal school education fails for it is difficult to have a dynamic atmosphere with 25 students of different backgrounds especially when a school tries to meet everyone’s needs in one class.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just starting the homeschool journey this coming Monday. I do not have any failings……….yet, lol. But here are my top 3 fears:
    1. I’ve planned too much
    2. I’ve planned too little
    3. My tendency to need everything in its place hinders my daughter’s creativity and/or freedom to begin to love learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I tend to overschedule, and I tend to pull from lots of resources, while not praying for guidance. This contributes to my third area of struggle which is dealing with the stress in a spirit-filled manner. Ahem. Planning to include a lot more prayer as I work on next year! 🙂


  8. Thank you for sharing this. I fail at thinking I have to accomplish it all in one day with my kids. I’m learning that there needs to be lots of margin time and flexibility. I worry and I need to give my children to God. I need to balance out our days better. Lots of wisdom shared in this post. Thank You.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can understand this problem. I tend to plan too much for a single day, then become disappointed when I can’t finish it all.

      Sometimes poor planning isn’t planning too little, but planning too much and being unreasonable.

      May the Lord help us find balance.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: 2015’s Top Attractions! | A Homeschool Mom

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