Saturday, November 23, 2019

Motivating, Entertaining, & Educating

If you read the short description of my blog, part of it reads that my blog consists of "tips, tricks, rants, and wisecracks about life, education, politics, and just about anything in between." Throughout the years, I have most certainly written posts that address all of those things (perhaps you will disagree about the wisecracks part, although I think I'm clever at times 😃).  This post is going to lean more toward the rant category.  It's not going to be a rant about politics (I could definitely do that) or about any one person or thing, it's more of a rant about my own perceived abilities at this time.  Confused?  Read on...

I am generally a positive person.  Of course, I have moments of negativity, we all do, but I usually move on from negativity quickly, trying to instill positivity when confronted with negativity, and if a toxic situation or person starts to bring me down, then I try to remove myself from the situation or person and avoid as much as I can in the future.  Lately, I have had a hard time avoiding some negativity and perceptions that are invading my headspace.  And in the spirit of airing out the not so good as well as the good, here goes!

Disclaimer: this, again, is not directed toward any one person or situation.  This isn't meant for me to call anybody out.  I also am not attempting to generalize any group of people.  This is more of a way for me to vent some frustrations that have been plaguing me as of late.  

This year has been especially tough thus far.  I could identify a multitude of things between the extra class that I am teaching, coteaching economics for the first time, two nights of teaching adult education government, one night of Tech CAFE where I work with teachers on educational technology, an expanded caseload that increased by seven from last year, or the earlier schedule this year compared to last year.  However, when talking to a lot of educators, it sounds like many are in the same boat, exhausted and just trying to keep it afloat.  But it's not just these things.

What I am finding especially tough this year is the reception of my teaching from many of my students.  My co-teachers and I work very hard to design engaging lessons, set expectations for our students, and instill management of our classes, but it feels like we are working extra hard at those things this year "without much in return."  I feel that we have had many more conversations with students regarding the lack of participation in activities and the completion of tasks.  I often feel that regardless of how engaging the lessons we design are, we are fighting the resistance from students (and adults).  To say that I am frustrated is an understatement.

I feel that rather than teaching, I am trying to figure out ways to entertain.  Now don't get me wrong, I want to teach engaging lessons that entertain, but I don't want the entertainment to be the main focus.  I want my content and my goals of learning to be the focus.  Because I feel that I am not motivating or entertaining enough, I am questioning my abilities as an educator.

I am a damn good teacher.  I am confident in my abilities and I have nearly 15 years' worth of success stories of students that did amazing things in my classes and went on to do even greater things.  This is not because of me, I was simply a guide in students' lives.  But I am struggling this year, I am not seeing my hard work guiding students as much this year.  And I don't know what else to think.  Have I lost my touch?  What do I need to do differently?

I am not afraid to be vulnerable through my words.  I have admitted faults and weaknesses in the past, and I am hoping that if you are reading this, perhaps you have some words of wisdom that you can share with me or anybody else that is struggling to motivate your students, feeling overwhelmed, and questions your abilities.  I sincerely hope that my words here can spark a conversation where we can help one another; this isn't an "oh woe is me" tactic, but a way to find a way to be better and be the best that I can for all of my students and my colleagues.

Until next time... 


  1. Kyle, I thank you for your transparency. You are NOT alone. I think this is an important conversation to be had and sometimes I think for many (raising my hand here) it is hard to find a way to eloquently state, "I am struggling". I was flying high the summer of 2018. Just having been notified that I had landed a new job wearing three hats, IT Coordinator/IT Coach/Teacher, for a small rural district and earning Innovator. (Which blew my mind!) It was an amazing whirlwind summer and then my new year began. Small rural school... piece of cake, I thought. It has been R E A L L Y challenging. The past year and a half had me questioning exactly what you speak of. Though I do have student-students, my toughest are my teacher/admin-students. My darkest day not long ago. A team from our school was presenting at the PBIS conference with a session titled something like, "From Dabbling to Full Implementation, "A PBIS Success Story in a Small Rural School." ...that title being so far from the truth. It hit me hard that I am among many that are checking boxes and it is having a great impact on our whole system. I was overwhelmed with this feeling of defeat. That I don't "play" the game very well. I could not be happy for them that they were chosen to present this session to a crowd of eager listeners, when the truth is we are a train wreck! I KNOW, too, that I bring value and I KNOW that I am good, but I am only one of a few in a very broken system who knows we need change. I see transparency and truth as necessary so we can honestly assess and address what is broken and then systematically fix it. I have felt beaten by the thoughts that we will never fix anything if everyone is checking boxes. *Insert Eyore's voice. Our students aren't that different than many others...the education being provided to them is not relative... most teachers are checking boxes. Our students know that and it has developed this apathy in the majority of them that I (or you or any other amazing educator) can't beat. (Hang in there, my rant is almost over.) Though our students love the innovative lessons I offer, they often do not apply themselves. They too have learned how to check boxes. In a very short time period, I have found myself going through the motions, checking boxes, and answering to a leader who has not even heard of SAMR. I had hit a place where I felt alone and unable to make a difference. I was-am outnumbered. At least that is what I was feeling until just recently. Maybe that low was what I needed. I had hit a place that I either become one of them (not acceptable) or I take a different path. But I am a born educator. I am not choosing a different path. So then what? My challenges aren't over... the numbers are still stacked against me. But I woke one morning realizing I had better start applying what I know about mindset and focus on what IS working and just grow that. It is a daily conversation right now that I have with myself, but I am noticing a difference. I had a staff member use Screencastify to flip some lessons for stations and another that I would have bet against use Flipgrid all in one week. It's like the tech Gods wanted to offer a ray of hope! My students are still the same, but I'm focusing on the few that are appreciating what I offer and I am feeling a bit better. It certainly isn't perfect, but hey I made it to Thanksgiving break! I think hitting the low has helped me re-center. Your having posted this has made me be brave enough to share too. Not to say that a little woo-woo mindset shift will change it all, but it is definitely helping. I think the numbers are against us in all reality, but for me clearing the mud so I can see the small changes has been helpful and given me the strength to forge ahead. Again, thanks for sharing.

  2. I think kids sense when we are trying to hard, want them to engage and even in our thought bubbles put pressure on them to join in. It is like being a parent of grown kids, the more we cling, the more they push away. But if we can loosen up even if is just in our own brains and not seem so eager they step forward. You are doing so much. Where can you step back or reuse something you’ve done before or (gasp) not care but really do care so you aren’t resentful when they are being their developmental hormonal age. I teach little children with special needs and when I work overly hard, am over eager or to excited for something forget it- all their opposition comes out, but if I act like it is no big deal & get excited once they are excited (because I know they will be) then I have them. Such a funny push/pull. I hope you get to have a wonderful little break. Thank you for all you do.

  3. Hey Kyle,

    Way to tell it from the heart. What I am trying to understand is how to elicit student voice and get quality feedback from them that is good for them.

    Me: What direction would you like the learning to take. Them: Play on the iPads and have extra recess. Me:

    I am also learning that student choice isn't always voice. Hang in there my fellow GLIAC football alum. I am sure you'll figure it out and then have lots to offer the rest of us that you learned along the way.