What do you mean by “it works for me”?

Hey, it keeps the kids busy and quiet, so it works for me!
I don’t care what the “research” says, it works in my classroom.
So what if that’s a better way, this is working for me!
Yeah, using technology would probably improve it, but what I’m doing is working, so I’ll pass.
How can anyone tell me not to do things that way when it works for me?

We use those kind of phrases a lot to defend educational practices. And to some extent, I agree with them. No one knows your students better than you, their teacher. You’re the one who is in the trenches each day, constantly trying out new things and experimenting with ways to meet each student’s needs.

But I think it’s helpful to ask ourselves what we actually mean by the phrase “it works for me.” Do we mean that what we’re doing makes kids compliant and quiet, or builds intrinsic motivation and gets them engaged? Does it just make the teacher’s job easier, or does it improve student learning?

Is what you’re doing really working for all kids, or just for most of them?

Is what you’re doing centered mostly on what meets your needs or theirs?

There’s nothing wrong with choosing instructional practices that keep an orderly classroom and simplify your teaching. But those are only a few of the many factors to consider when reflecting on what works and what doesn’t.

I encourage you to really think about those knee-jerk reactions when you say, “It works for me, so I’m not changing.” Think about your behavior management system, for example. Does it REALLY produce the results you want–independent thinking, self-motivated, self-reliant, responsible students? If you’re complaining all the way until the end of June about how lazy kids are and how you just can’t get them to behave, then the answer is NO, your system actually doesn’t work for you, because it doesn’t really work for your kids.

There is no one right way to teach that will result in success for all students. No tried and true formula for success, right? So we have to stay open-minded and continually look for new ideas. What worked for last year’s class might not work for this year’s class, and shoe-horning a new group of kids into the same old teaching practices just because they’re familiar to you is only going to result in frustration for everyone involved.

As you plan for the coming school year, I encourage you to keep asking yourself: Does this work? How do I know it’s working? Is there something else I could try that might work better?

questions to ask when reflecting on your teaching practices

Be the lifelong learner you want your students to be. Keep reflecting, keep growing, keep trying new things. It can be discouraging when other people question your teaching methods, but it’s EMPOWERING to question yourself.

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen July 24, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Those questions are wonderful and correlate perfectly with Response to Intervention. “How do I know?” often refers to data, which we know is a recent focus, especially of administrators. When we (teachers) are doing something “different” than the majority (maybe something new), it may be helpful to have answers to these questions ready for when an administrator or colleague inquires about something we are doing.

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2 Angela Watson August 4, 2014 at 2:11 pm

I love the connection to RTI. Thanks for that!

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3 Karen July 25, 2014 at 8:49 am

Great post. It is this sort of thinking that has led me to take two major steps. The first is to go back to school and start work on my MEd (via a Grad Cert program), and the second is to thoroughly investigate and plan to implement a version of “The Daily 5″ in my class for this coming year. Both are going to take work, but I’m seriously hopeful that the results will be worth it. The day I stop learning, is the day I should stop teaching!

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4 Angela Watson August 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Great reflections (and plan)! Thank you for sharing. :)

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