One of the best things that I have been learning over the past several months as a teacher has been figuring out when to take advice and when to not listen to others. Most of the time, it’s the latter.
I got an email three weeks into class from a student who wasn’t liking the way I was running the class. He started the email by saying that no one likes the class and everyone agrees I am making big mistakes. He told me that the best thing to do would be to teach less, grade easier, and make it more of a free period where everyone gets to work alone on their projects.
When I first read this, I had an initial fear that if I did not change the way I was teaching I would be in danger of losing all my students and my class. Maybe this kid knew what he was talking about, and everyone secretly hated what I was doing with the class. Maybe if I taught the class he said everyone wanted, the class would be functional and everyone would be happy!
Luckily, I decided to teach the class the way I had planned for the next few days to then see if anyone else wanted to leave before I would change the way I teach. As time passed, two or three students left and I became more and more worried about what about my teaching style was causing them to stop coming. After the initial people left, a few weeks passed and no one left. A few weeks later, still all the same crowd. A few weeks later, and the same 22 people were still enrolled.
It occurred to me that while those who saw faults in the course may have been louder, by not changing my style I was able to solidify the support of the students who enjoyed the course, while losing only the people for whom my style would never be “correct.”
While in my previous post I talked about the mistakes I could learn from to prevent a few people from leaving my class, this self-criticism comes with the assumption that you ARE doing something right. People won’t lead or teach themselves so if you choose to put yourself in a position where others are relying on you, you better be able to tell those around you that you are going to be the model that you seek out to be, no what everyone wants you to be.
Learn from the mistakes, yes. But never change because others tell you too or you will lose track of the fact that you were chosen to create, think, and build unique experiences and that in time respect follows those who stick around.