Dear Dr. Marzano,

On Twitter, you wrote: “Students’ attention and engagement are directly under the control of the classroom teacher. There is no reason any student should be systematically bored, inattentive, or disengaged in any class at any grade level.”

Your comment sparked some great debate stemming from the unrealistically high expectations for teachers. Apparently, we are the sole reason that a student is “systematically bored, inattentive, or disengaged.” There are various factors behind a student’s behavior, such as not getting enough sleep to take care of their siblings, working extra hours to support their family, not understanding the value of education for it failed them, or the systematic oppression that they have experienced in their lifetime.

Such external factors still compel you to blame the educator who spends their own money, offers extra time away from family, and pours their heart and soul into a career they love. Yet, they are still constantly criticized. Critiquing others is the easy path, because it is like the audience who watches a game and gets frustrated with every move a player makes. They were never the ones who played the game. Blaming a teacher is simple, but a true master of their craft begins to figure out solutions.

Our career has always been one where those on the sidelines believe they can do better, yet they choose not to teach. We put our heart and soul into this job to be judged and scrutinized, rather than being treated as experts. We know that we can do better, but we are also realistic about our time or we burn out. Suggesting that students who do not follow along are our faults is disheartening. Why do we get told we are wrong for having a variety of students with different outlooks, experiences, and situations?

Understanding is difficult when one does not experience such a process. Systematic boredom is not the fault of the teacher, but rather those who have helped create expectations that meet certain students, but not each student. The institutional and systematic challenges are not with the teacher, but rather education holistically. Perhaps those exams that test “knowledge” are the issue. Perhaps the way schools are structured are the problem. Perhaps those so called systematic challenges are due to researchers who have limited knowledge best classroom practices, because they have not been in front of a class of students for years.

The fans are those who do not teach, but critique. Every decision we make involves a sense of blame, because it is easy. How about using your powers of educational greatness to find clear solutions? Use evidence where you attempt your practices in classrooms, so you can legitimately share your own insights to the profession. You can try to make that difficult pass, or take a shot from a place where we may struggle, then explain the process, so we can make attempts as well. Try to find solutions, for blaming is easy.

Teachers are stressed beyond measure, for they are not given the trust and opportunities to thrive. They are forced into numerous obligations, extra work, and excessive expectations. There are several passes thrown towards them, at the same time, from various directions while they are just trying to take a shot, and it never stops.

The students have choices. We give them numerous tools, and we constantly strive for success so our students thrive. We want our students to do well, yet we cannot blame ourselves for those who do not pay attention, for those may cause the nights we cannot sleep. Some are the kids who take a toll on our health. We ask ourselves why the students did not learn. We cannot be fixated on such emotionally draining challenges, so just like any game, we must continue to play, and we are striving to do the best we can for each student.


Teacher’s Testimonials

The Struggle is a Real Beauty

The first day of teaching is known to be a scary phenomena for those embarking on their new journey into the profession. A first day’s impression has a tremendous impact on the student’s perception of the teacher.

Some suggest that teachers should keep a rigid face with no emotions in order to express a form of superiority complex over the students, while others may recommend playing games the entire class to build rapport. Everyone has their own system. The constant advice and feedback consuming new teachers leads to a plethora of choices. Deciding the best practices can be overwhelming. Take one step at a time.

Plan lessons carefully. Strategically sequenced and targeted lessons can increase engagement. Review the standards, write an objective, plan your exit ticket, and work backwards. Lesson planning effectively takes time, and practicing the skill will help. If possible, look at lessons that are rigorous, and set a high standard for students. The achievement gap is real! Ask yourself how you will get the students to meet those standards. Your students may not know the solution to the objective yet, and each student may have a different path, so plan carefully. You do not know their capabilities until you see them try with the proper tools. Avoid assuming that they cannot do something, rather figure out the process to get them to the desired goal.

Ask other teachers questions. Find people with a positive mindset to support and surround you. If there are toxic teachers, stay away! The poison can seep into your own mindset and consume you with disdain. Work with those who will always be solution-oriented. As for the negative ones who may leech onto you, respectfully remind them your reason for teaching. Always remember your passion!

In your class, focus on the positive rather than the negative. Many teachers call home when a student is not behaving or did not submit homework. Try calling home by sharing a story about a student who took a risk or a student who completed a challenging task. I would highly recommend positive phone calls for students who are not used to teachers sharing such comments. Show students you appreciate them with precise praise and feedback, so they will be more invested.

Do not fear correcting behavior. If a student is talking out of turn, you may let them know, but do not focus on arguing or draw attention. The correction should be quick and the least intrusive. Sometimes while teaching, even walking towards a student can be an indirect way to quiet them, or pointing out positive behaviors that may cause more students to follow the lead. By doing so, you can still teach. Sing praises when you can, appreciate students for taking risks, and be authentic with the positives and corrective behavior. Keep in mind, some students will express themselves in the way that they think you see them. See the good. Always see the good.

Consistency is beautiful. Planning your class rules, procedures, and placement in class will make the year much easier. Constant change can be overwhelming and lead to repetitive correction over the course of the year. We are creatures of habit, and students are bombarded with various expectations in their lifetimes, so minimizing change will lead to efficiency.

Classroom management is an art that takes time to develop. Numerous strokes of paint are constantly added to the canvas with various practices, risks, mistakes, and measures that lead to a personal piece that exemplifies our own vision of education that may not satisfy everyone. The display takes time to be appreciated, but it will grow in value as long as effort is invested into the art.

I know these are several spewed pieces of information. I hope it helps! Struggle can be beautiful, but not to the point where it is overwhelming. Please comment with advice you may have for those about to step into the threshold of their teacher’s journey. I wish you all a wonderful experience.


Teacher’s Testimonial