When The Teacher Isn’t Fully Present (aka Fail #1526 In My Teaching Chronicles)

I consider myself a pretty dang good teacher.  Not to toot my own horn, but I can pretty much handle anything the kids throw at me.  I have undergone lots of mentorship and training as a teacher and have been teaching the ‘little ones’ for years.  I also have been training and coaching my teachers through classroom management issues for the past 10 years.  I have 3 kiddos of my own, so I think I also have “mom” credit.

That doesn’t mean that I never deal with any issues.  I still have to be on my game at all times.  When my energy is low or I am not fully present, the students definitely recognize it.  Today was one of those days. Let me explain…

It was a super early Saturday class—so early that I have to arrive at the studio by 7:15am to properly set up my props and music and get my lesson plan organized.  We had a big event at the studio that afternoon, with many potential students coming and a few details and errands still to be finalized, so that was in the back of my mind.  I also felt a little off because I had been out of town most of the week and this was my first day back.

Let’s talk about the subject of this post, we’ll call her “Claire”, a 4 year old student.  Claire is normally a very well-behaved child who smiles throughout class and never gives me any issues.  Until today. 

We made it through the first 15 minutes of class no problem.  This part of my class is tap--normally a little higher energy, not requiring a ton of focus.  When we came to the ballet part of class that required a little more focus from the students and more standing in one place to learn the piece for the concert, Claire looked at me and said, “I’m tired,” and then proceeded to stand still on her spot and not participate.  Today, I did what I typically do when a student makes that remark, and ignored it.  She repeated it once or twice more, and I continued to ignore except for saying “Claire, we’re doing this now.”  I continued on as normal, didn’t stop the class to give her any more attention than that. 

Well, like any typical 4 year old will do, she changed her tactics. 

In my experience, I knew by now that she was in the mood for attention, so when she began to murmur jibberish words and dance silly in place, I continued to ignore and emphasize what I was doing that was so amazing, and hoped the other students would follow my lead. I got lucky today—they weren’t really phased by her new ploy for attention, and she kept it relatively low key and low volume.  Phew.

This went on for about 10 more minutes, with a few visits to mom who was watching in the back.  (FYI, we allow parent observation at all times.  The benefits of that are for another post.)  Somehow, she eventually gave up her attention seeking behaviors and returned to her sweet self, but by that time class was nearly over. 

In the end, ignoring the behavior worked in my favor this time.  However, there is a very important lesson that I have to remind myself during days like today.   If I had been fully present and energized at every moment, I would’ve recognized that she was having an off day, given her extra encouragement, and it’s likely she wouldn’t have needed to seek attention.  Because I was tired and thinking of other things and not fully on my game, I didn’t recognize her needs and prevent her unnecessary behavior.

We must always remain present so we can predict what the child needs and can prevent the off-task behaviors.  This is something my teaching mentor always told me.  I know that I am not fully to blame for this child’s behavior, but I wish that A) I would’ve recognized her need for attention sooner, and B) I wouldn’t have been distracted and had more energy to give her.  I could’ve complimented her when we came into the room, engaged her with questions, given her more praise during tap.  It isn’t a guarantee that it would’ve prevented the behavior, but it may not have gone as far as it did.

I got lucky that her classmates were not distracted by this, but it could’ve easily happened.  Then I likely would’ve had to reset activities and change my entire lesson because of it.

I am sure you can relate to this story and hope you gain something from it.  Remember that even small things, like being tired, stressed, or not fully present, can affect how your students will react and behave in your class.

Comment below.   When have you failed and what did you learn?