We've all been there: you spend an hour on a lesson and are so excited to finally get to share it with your students. You prepare all of the manipulatives and resources and jump right in with your students. Then the worst happens: the lesson completely flops.
There's nothing quite as unnerving as realizing the lesson you've worked so hard on isn't being received by your students in the way you had expected. It happens, and it stinks. It can be such a nasty blow to our confidence, and we begin to second guess everything.
Unfortunately, this is all just part of the gig. Lessons fail. Sometimes lessons fail for things that have nothing to do with you. In fact, I'd argue that most of the time the reason a lesson flops has nothing to do with you. So how do we learn from these lessons? How do we take it in stride and keep moving forward.
Step One: Pivot
I don't even want to think about the amount of times that I've been in the middle of a lesson and realized I needed to change gears completely. Sometimes our students aren't ready to move on to a new concept, and sometimes they need to move quicker than you had expected. But sometimes you just need to completely pivot.
It can be so intimidating to abandon a lesson that you've spent a good amount of time planning and going "off-script" in your classroom. But sometimes it needs to be done. Don't be afraid to abandon a plan if you're at the point where you don't see it end successfully.
Step Two: Reflect
After the students have left and the dust has settled, take some time to think about why the lesson flopped. Had the students been testing all day? Were they not in the right headspace for what you tried to do? Was it too simple or too difficult? Did you give your students the tools they needed to be successful?
Take some time to think about whether or not anything was wrong with the lesson itself, or maybe it was just a problem in timing. Look at the entire lesson and see what was successful and what could have gone better. Take a look at the sequencing and make sure that you've given your students the tools that they need in order to have been successful with the lesson.
Step Three: Try, Try Again
Don't let a lesson flopping get you down. Regroup and try again. Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint. Each lesson will bring you one step closer to having the perfect lesson. Nobody expects you to have everything perfect from day one. Make sure that you give yourself the grace to try new things and take steps to improve your lessons.
Even veteran teachers will have lessons that flop. Failure is part of the job. It's what we do when something doesn't go perfectly as planned where the art of teaching comes in. Teaching is a job where you have to learn every day. In my opinion, it's the flops that help us become better educators. Its the moments of vulnerability that help us grow.
Bryson Tarbet is the music educator and blogger behind That Music Teacher.