There are no peaks without valleys.

I’m reminded of this tonight. Last year felt like a valley year. Just Thursday felt like a valley.

But we get up the next day and put our pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of the world, and go back to climbing.

Want to get better at teaching with comprehensible input? Do it. Do it every day, even when you think you stink. Even when your students’ energy is low and you think they’re not into it. It’s not about you. Even when you have a kid that breaks the flow with English. It’s not about you. Let that all roll off your back and come back to it again tomorrow.

Consider this anecdote from the book Art and Fear:

The ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality.

His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an A.

Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity!

It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

You have to get in there and do it. Slow down, teach to the eyes. Find the kid who wants it but processes slower than the rest and teach to her/his eyes. Stick with the same kid and resist the urge to go ask another kid the same question. Follow up with another question. Then another. Then step back and make sure the class has it. Then ask another. It’s hard work. Having the right question, keeping it comprehensible, showing genuine interest, holding the class accountable… it’s all hard. But it’s so, so worth it.

You can do this.

You can do this.

You can do this.

No Peaks Without Valleys

3 thoughts on “No Peaks Without Valleys

  • December 20, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Encouragement: If it’s not the most important ingredient for teacher success, it’s right up there near the top! It’s so easy to think it’s always us!
    Carol Hill

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