Comment on “Why do we take it so personally” by Cecilia Lemos

Cecilia Lemos’s latest blog post “Why do we take it so personally?” really resonates with me.

Photo by Gil Epshtein
Photo by Gil Epshtein

She writes about how we are aware of the fact that we only play a part in a student’s success yet we feel WE are to blame when the student does not succeed. Cecilia says: “ Why do we take it so personally – and only on a negative side for us??”

I wish I had the answer to that question!

Over the years I have discussed it countless times with a colleague who has been teaching the same pupils I do for just as long (but does not teach English).

Here are a few insights that have come up over the years. Sometimes they make me feel better, sometimes they don’t.

You pay a price either way. Obviously “beating yourself over the head” is bad for your teaching, for your health and for your family. You are human and there is only so much one person can do, no matter how good the intentions are. If you only look at the things that have gone wrong you won’t have the strength for all the things you do so well that help so many students.

On the other hand, if your attitude is: “I know I have worked hard preparing the lessons. If someone still fails, it isn’t related to me”, then you risk being frozen into certain patterns of teaching that you stick to. You miss out on the intense reflection that can come out of true frustration. That’s when you may decide to try something radically different in class or start calling the student’s parents often. Or who knows what else. Sometimes that does the trick.

And sometimes, nothing does the trick. In fact, the real trick is to know how long to agonize about what you haven’t tried before flipping the TURN OFF switch and moving to “I’VE DONE MY BEST” mode. I wish I could say I control this switch well because I have some students whom, despite my sincere efforts, are not going to get a passing grade on the finals they just took. I tried to skim over, to bridge the abyss between what they know to what they need to know for the exam but the abyss is too big.

The best way to activate this “switch” is to hash out your feelings with someone who knows the pupils. They can remind you of the reality of the issues outside of your control which are influencing this pupil and help you regain perspective.

Just like we tell our pupils, when you feel distressed – talk about it!

10 thoughts on “Comment on “Why do we take it so personally” by Cecilia Lemos”

  1. I know it did me a world of good to talk about it on my blog and read so many fantastic responses from my PLN – and your blog post!!! Loved it Naomi 🙂 And you’re right… we just have to know how we’ve done our best – and that’s really all anyone can ask from us.

    X Ceci

    1. Ceci!
      Just by reading the comments on your blog and on mine you can see how many teachers relate stongly to this issue.
      So glad you shared!

  2. thanks, Naomi, for the link to Cecilia’s post and your ruminations.
    Inner dialogue club – the perennial membership.

    No matter how much self-reiki (inner and outer defence system) I employ, how much clarity I strive to achieve, there’s always something ‘else’ I could try next time, some other technique to enter my own relaxation mode more fully so that I can spontaneously react in a different way to turn on a student’s brain.
    This is the impetus that keeps me fascinated to work with Special Ed kids.
    As a million outer circumstances all affect these students, I always hope to find the wherewithal to bring the chaos to a neatly digestible bite – tasty and memorable for my students.

    When offered compliments, I hardly dare accept them. When shown disdain by a recalcitrant student, I take it in fully and deeply ponder how to reach that student (even if his mood has nothing to do with school or that particular second in time).

    This seems like a myth of sisyphus situation – after each taste of success there’s a torrent of rockslide that I’m forced to push up the hill once more.

    And on it goes.
    -best to you and us all!

    1. Judih!
      Your descriptions are so powerful – wow!
      It’s seems to be an international phenomenon. Should we be sending for the psychologists or is feeling like that the only way to be the best teachers possible?
      I wonder if anyone has researched this!

  3. been there, done that. i desire for them to do so well, but when they don’t, i get frustrated/sad/(insert neg adjective).

    1. Harry!
      We need to involve ourselves emotionally to do the job well but that comes with a price tag!
      Thank you for stopping by!

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