being a teacher, being me

But Do They Run Into Your Classroom?

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For eight years I have been sharing my thoughts on this blog.

Eight years of good.

Eight years of not so good.

Eight years of simply needing to get it out so that my brain could process whatever it was and move on.

Eight years of trying to be more than I was.  And so there is something that still needs to be said, that has been driving me crazy for a long, long time.  That makes me feel like a fraud, like a charlatan teacher who probably doesn’t really have the right to share anything about how anyone else should teach. What no one ever told me before I became a teacher was how there would be this unbelievable pressure to be an amazing teacher.  To be the kind of teacher that truly changes lives.  To create the type of environment that students cannot wait to be a part of.  What no one ever told me before I became a teacher was how much social media would lead me to believe that I was doing it all wrong, most of the time, because my students are not those students that love school.

It is fed by the statements that surround us as teachers…

“If they didn’t have to be there, would they really show up?”

“Students should be running into your classroom not running away…”

“If they don’t love it, then you are doing it wrong…”

And while I get the sentiment behind these statements, I also think of the danger of them.  The unattainable versions of reality that really none of us can ever live up to.  These notions of creating such over the top unforgettable classroom experiences that make kids want to run into our schools, choosing us and our classroom above everything else.  Every. Single. Day.  Who can live up to that?

For ten and a half years, I have chased the mirage of being a perfect teacher.  Of being the type of teacher that created those types of experiences that would make students flock to our classroom.  That would make students want to come to school.  And while there have been days where it almost felt like that, I have never achieved it, because let’s face it, it is a completely unrealistic notion.  And it is a notion that are driving teachers to feel as if no matter what they do, no matter how hard they work, they will never be enough.  They will always be lacking.  How exhausting and debilitating is that?

So I am going to give it to you real straight because that’s what I always try to do; most of my 7th graders would probably rather hang out with each other than walk through our door.  Most of my 7th graders would not run into our classroom if given the choice.  They would probably rather sleep, watch Youtube, or simply hang out.

And I am okay with that.

Because that’s normal development.  Because it is okay for our classroom to be low on their choice of experiences.  Because it is okay for our classroom to not be something they think about when not in school.  Because it is okay for kids to not be excited about the idea of going to school.

What is not okay is for them to hate it once they do get in our rooms.  There is a big difference.

And so that is where we do the work.  To create experiences that make students want to engage with our learning.  That makes students feel as if they matter once they are there.  That makes the time fly, the minutes pass until the next class, where they can hopefully experience that again.

So while most of my students would probably not volunteer to come to our classroom, once they are there, many of them love it.  Many of them love what we do, who we are, and how we grow.  Many of them would choose to stay once there.  And to me, that is what matters.

So the next time you hear someone state, “But would they choose to come?”  It’s okay to say, “Probably not” and not feel like a horrible teacher because what you realized is that the question was wrong all along, not you.  Because what you realized is that you can teach your heart out and still have a hard time competing with everything that surrounds young people these days.  Because what you realized is that the question should have been, “If given the choice would they choose to stay?”

And to that I can honestly answer, “Yes, most of the time they would…”

It turns out that perhaps I never needed to be a perfect teacher, I just needed to be real.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child  Also consider joining our book club study of it, kicking off June 17th.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

15 thoughts on “But Do They Run Into Your Classroom?”

  1. I always enjoy reading your posts. You put yourself out there, and you are so genuine. This post really resonated with me as I feel so much of what is out there for teachers is that you have to put on such elaborate productions in order to reach kids or be a good teacher. I like your train of thought in that would they stay in your classroom if given a choice. Thank you for sharing your teacher journey. You are inspiring.

  2. Thank you! I needed to read this as I reflect on this past year. Thank you for always sharing reality.

  3. Thank you for this post! It is honest and true. I have just finished my 31st year and completely agree with you! Teachers need to read this!

  4. I really love this post and it resonated so much with me. I recently read Wild Card, and while I found value in it and took many things away from it, it also left me feeling exhausted and insufficient. I love asking the question, “Would they stay?” because it’s so much more realistic. It still pushes me to be the best I can be, but it also doesn’t make me feel like I need to create a circus show each day for my students. Thank you for putting this out there.

  5. I think teaching was easier before social media happened because I didn’t see everyone’s perfect classrooms or persuasive comments, so I understand the pressure you have felt during your career. But you said it right. What we do in the classroom to engage students counts much more than attempts to entice them in.

  6. Such a simple distinction, but an important one. Thanks for being “real” I, too, believe that once my Ss have arrived, they are happy to be in our classroom space. We need to create authentic learning experiences for them that tap into all of the things that would compete with them coming, if given the choice. Happy summer!

  7. “What is not okay is for them to hate it once they do get in our rooms. There is a big difference.” So true. And teachers need to realize kids don’t need big productions every day, The most impact comes from your relationship with them.

  8. Really like your direct talk Pernille. Of course our kids would prefer to do their own thing most of the time, whatever that might be. However, as you mention it’s all about the teaching and learning that happens once they are at school. It’s all about the special rapport they each have with their teachers and the culture of learning and dispositions that have been created that make for enjoyable and productive learning. Yes, finding ways to engage and motivate learning is essential, however, students need to feel safe and feel they matter before learning can happen. I believe this is the challenging part for teachers.

  9. As always, right on point. And I worry about the people that push us into thinking that we can be that perfect teacher every day. That is unrealistic. What is realistic is greet g them everyday with hope and excitement that they are there.

  10. Kids will run into the street, hardly a positive quality we can determine how well our class is liked. I also think we need to rethink the idea that all kids have to love our classes all the time. Or like it some of the time. When did the purpose of school, or classrooms, become to be a place that kids always enjoy being at?

    1. Yes! I tell my students that if they don’t like our class that’s ok, as long as they feel respected by me. Not every kid is going to like every class, that’s what makes us individuals.

  11. Thanks you for this post. Guess what? I worry about the reaction youngsters have with my class too; educators ponder this across the globe! I worry too, about the negative teachers in the teaching community who do the minimum for themselves & the kids in their classes. It does little if nothing to encourage and nurture positive mindsets in kids, or adults. We cannot be change-making educators who make perfect decisions all the time. I choose however, to place my effort and heart into instruction and relationships with my learning community EVERYDAY. Not perfect, just steady….for I believe what we do matters!..

  12. Thank you very much for this post. This needed to be said. I cannot handle all of the pithy Tweets about what my classroom should be, or if I’m a good teacher what I should be from those who are far removed from the everyday work. I’m weary of the bright and shiny on Instagram. Building relationships and creating environments where our kids feel respected, seen and heard are key for me. I know they won’t love everything, but it’s nice to see a highly respected educator like you owning that too. Thank you for continuing to blog while teaching and raising your own kids…it means a lot to those of us who gain inspiration and validation from your work.

  13. Once again, a real and refreshing read. Thank you Pernille. This year, I took part in a genius hour project with a gr. 8 class I was working with, and my question was “Why do kids hate or love school”. So many of their responses revolved around how important the relationship is with the teacher. Engaging them. Listening to them. Knowing them. Important reminders for all of us 🙂

  14. I think it needs to be stated that emotions are not always good indicators. Depending on the students, and school climate and culture, students may not want to come to class. They may not enjoy the class in that moment. We all know classrooms where not a lick of learning is happening and students never want to leave. Sometimes students don’t realize the benefit of instruction and learning for years later. I know kids who hated everything about my class until the lightbulb came on after they had moved on to other grade levels. Blanket statements about what classrooms ought to be are dangerous. The bottom line is that teachers ought to enter classrooms everyday with integrity and purpose and bring and carry out thoughtful lessons geared towards academic development in the subject area. Lessons should be clear, relevant and challenging but not necessarily entertaining. Lessons should move kids forward in their academic development and should be tied together to create a cohesive progression of knowledge, skill, and understanding. The teachers job is not to get kids to love their class. The teachers job is to get kids to cultivate a life long desire to seek knowledge and understanding. That desire should be moved forward in every class. We can’t all judge ourselves as failing if kids don’t run towards us with open arms at the end of a year or at graduation affirming the virtues of our classes. We are teachers. We do difficult work. It is not always pretty in the moment but we should be assured and have faith in the fact that our work, if carried out with intentionality and grounded in inclusivity and rigor will bring beauty in the end.

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