'Today is a bad day' photo (c) 2009, Paul Downey - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Readers might remember that last month I posted a popular series at my Education Week Teacher column on the best ways to deal with bad days.

Because of some technical difficulties, I didn’t receive a response from Jeff Charbonneau, 2013 National Teacher Of The Year, in time to include it there, so I’m publishing it here as a guest post.

The good news, though, is that we’ve worked out those technical issues and several responses from Jeff will be appearing in future posts at my Ed Week column.

You might also be interested in those three Ed Week posts in that series:

Response: Recover From Bad Days by Seeing ‘Disasters as Opportunities’, which included comments by Roxanna Elden, Allen Mendler and Julia Thompson.

Response: A Bad Day In The Classroom ‘Will Pass’, with contributions from Terry Thompson, Renee Moore and Cindi Rigsbee.

Response: Using ‘Self-Compassion’ to Recover From a Bad Day, including responses from Amy Benjamin and Dina Strasser.

What do you do when you’re having a bad day in the classroom? How do you get over feelings of frustration?

Jeff Charbonneau is the 2013 National Teacher of the Year. He is a Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering teacher at Zillah High School, in Zillah, WA. You can follow him on Twitter at @JeffCharbonneau:

The first thing to remember is that bad days happen. Period. Having a bad day is not an indication of your ability as a teacher. HOW you respond to that day is.

Let’s think about the different kinds of bad days:

Student Related

We work with students whose lives are incredibly complex. Many of my students have lived a much harder life in their 15 years, than I have in my 35 combined. As teachers we need to remember that.

Very often we become so focused on our lessons, that we assume that our students should have the same focus.

However, the reality is that when a student is acting out, rude, or otherwise non-engaged, it is normally due to something else in their life. We need to understand that sometimes our role as a teacher is to be a sounding board – a safety zone for a student to release the frustration, anger, and disappointment that they are suffering from in other parts of their lives.

I try to remember to not take everything personally. Students may be mad at “the teacher”, but greatly appreciate me as a person.

This does not mean that students should be excused from bad behavior – quite the opposite in fact. The consistency of rules and standards helps to create a safe environment for all of learners. As such, holding students accountable for their actions is a paramount duty.

My biggest piece of advice for dealing with student behavior is to first ask yourself why the student is acting out. Only then can you choose the appropriate course of action. Remember – it’s not about making sure your feelings are not hurt – it’s about helping the student learn to navigate their emotions.


Co-Worker Related

The world of “he said, she said” did not end with our teenage years. In fact, many times bad days have very little to do with procedures, policies, or rules, and instead have everything to do with relationships with our co-workers.

As teachers we have learned to have an incredible amount of patience with our students. How many of us give the same level of patience to the adults in our lives?

The next time you have a disagreement with a co-worker, try treating them the same way you treat your students; with compassion, understanding, and most of all, the respect necessary to allow all to remain dignified.  The techniques for building positive relationships with students do not change when working with adults.


Reflect to Recharge

No matter the cause, bad days have one thing in common. They happen to all of us.

The catch is to understand that bad days can be incredibly positive turning points in your career depending on how you respond to them. The key is have a meaningful and honest reflection with yourself. Try to calmly answer the following questions at the end of that bad day:

  1. What happened in my life and the lives of others just before the day turned bad? Were there other events that caused uncharacteristic behavior?
  2. What did I learn from today?
  3. What can I do to help prevent similar outcomes in the future?

Just remember that when all is said and done, bad days help to make good days look that much better.