Why aren’t I a better teacher?

Results are out soon. They will bring with them the usual mix of joy, disappointment and indifference – among students, that is. For me, they will bring the usual question:    why hasn’t my obvious teaching genius been reflected in uniformly jaw-dropping results – particularly when compared to those of colleagues?

It is entirely possible that this is a window into my character that I don’t really want to open. It lays bare an innate competitiveness which I don’t like and don’t recognise in my day to day approach. I am a prolific producer of resources which I think are great – natch – and which I always share with colleagues at my current school (sometimes they humour me by using them) and, where I think they might be useful, at my previous one. Part of my role is to mentor staff brand new to the profession (we don’t insist on a teaching qualification) and I do this assiduously.   I engage in departmental and school wide debates about how to improve our teaching. To put it shortly, most of the time I’m not in it to win it, just to improve the education my school offers.

That changes at this time of year. I really, really want my students to do well, but not just for them: for me, too.  Raw, value added, whatever measure you care to mention, I’m not fussed. I just want to top the podium. Every time.  To prove that I am the teaching genius I think – I know – I am, you see.

So, that fact that my results might not show this is a source of some disquiet. Of course there are lots of variables in play and I can’t control them all. My colleagues are brilliant.  Exam results are only one measure, etc etc.  But that won’t stop me thinking, what did I do wrong? What can I do better?

That might sound admirable, except that it has questionable roots and usually leads to a state of near despair. I work really hard. I am – and forgive the arrogance but I can’t make the point without it – pretty highly rated by students and colleagues alike. I read and think about education.  I prize knowledge. I question, I challenge, I stretch. I do all those good things. And still, I don’t blow my peers out of the water at exam time.

I doubt I’m alone in feeling this way, nor in disliking the fact that I do. Fortunately, experience shows that the feeling will soon give way to a set of new year resolutions which, if I stick to them, will help me improve. This year though I’ve read more books, tweets and blogs than ever before, so my NYRs will be more closely targeted. I’ll also publish them on this blog. I mean, there’s no better incentive to reach a goal than to tell people about it, right?





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3 thoughts on “Why aren’t I a better teacher?

  1. I really like the honesty of your posts, Sam, and I suspect you’re articulating something here that many feel and few admit to!
    It is about striving to be better, and that IS admirable. In my experience, the best teachers always want to be better teachers, and exam time gives us some tangible evidence about how we’re doing. We may not like the fact that we compare ourselves to others, but I think it’s quite natural to do so.
    Good luck this year, and on the ongoing journey!


    1. I think you are probably right, Jill; I’m sure I can’t be the only one who feels like this. I agree with all the people who say results aren’t everything, but they are quite a lot (especially to the students) so I do think we should spend some time reflecting on them and how to improve them, without becoming bureaucratic automatons who forget that subjects are so much more than a syllabus.


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