What Drives Success Stories in Today’s Classrooms?

The first “Story of Success” comes from a former colleague of mine that brings up some great discussion points about what exactly is meant by success in the classroom. While not necessarily a story, I am choosing to lead with this because it sheds light on what is going on in today’s classrooms, and I couldn’t agree more, which supports my belief that this will be a great platform for teachers, students, and parents to share and discuss what they experienced as SUCCESS! She also discusses the increasing struggle to provide successful moments in today’s classrooms. While I would argue that teachers have the ability to control what and how things are done in their classrooms, I am also understanding of the demands and expectations that are put on teachers today that I was not exposed to prior to leaving the classroom only 3 years ago. I included a video at the end as an example to show how teachers are fearful of losing their jobs.

Below is her story:

“Success stories for teachers are an intangible thing. Intuitively, we know they happen, but because of our definition of success, we may rarely, if ever, truly witness it as it happens.

Many years ago, while seeking my first teaching job, I was crafting what I hoped would be the perfect resume. Right beneath my name was the most important line of text: Objective.

What was my objective? To obtain a job as an elementary school teacher? No, that’s plainly obvious because the only people reading my resume are screening teaching applicants.

I knew my objective had to reflect my perspective on teaching. I finally settled on something like this – To help develop and nurture a love of learning within my students that reaches beyond the classroom and affects all aspects of their lives.

A lofty goal? Perhaps. But if we’re being honest with our definition of success and our objectives as teachers, it fairly accurately sums up or hopes and aspirations.

So how do we know when it happens? There’s no fireworks, no confetti, and no applause. (Well, that last one’s not entirely true. Occasionally, something rare, unexpected, and surprising happens that causes the class to erupt into laughter and applause, often at my expense).

Teachers are intrinsically motivated. Our success is most commonly experienced internally. When I share a novel with my students that I loved as a child, and craft that experience so it includes opportunities for sharing, predicting, imagining, and experimenting with possibilities, the payoff is immeasurable.

When I help my students to see that history is all around them, pointing out the obscure and unnoticed people, places, and things that are hiding in plain sight, I feel like I’ve accomplished something important.

And when I get them to try something new, I’m a rock star. For some, it’s reading their first novel from cover to cover. For others, it’s completing a complex mathematical algorithm they thought impossible. And for a few, it’s simply raising their hand and taking a risk to answer a question in a room full of peers.

My success story happens every day when I get up and go to work because these things happen less frequently each and every day. My job has become highly scripted and incredibly inflexible. I have to prepare them to take a test rather than prepare them for life. Every day I ask them to do things I know they are not developmentally ready to do, all the while telling them that I know they can do this if they just try hard enough.

I spend my time looking through standardized test questions and selecting the lessons that are most likely to help them pass the test. I look for websites that practice the skills they need to be proficient. And I mine for data, trying to decipher which student would benefit from which prescriptive remedy.

So why do I do it day after day, year after year? Because, despite it all, there are still small moments of success that give me enough motivation to come back and do it all again.”

– Suzanne Flick Kurasz

While Suzanne and I were never “partner” teachers, we worked in the same building that felt like a second home, and I have witnessed her being successful in the classroom. For many years, under some great leadership, our family of teachers would constantly collaborate with each other, no matter what grade level you were engaged in. It saddens me to learn that for her and others in this same building- teaching has become a “Job” that “has become highly scripted and incredibly inflexible”. In the end, my former colleague offers the “Light at the End of the Tunnel” that student success and inspiration is the power behind her efforts every day in the classroom. Hopefully, one day, education will return to the days where inspiration and success of our students is the focus!

If you have a story of your own, please email me at ojlowe@optonline.net to be included in this ongoing discussion.

Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing your insight.

Please feel free to Share, Like, or Comment

Below, see a teacher choose not to defend himself from a student. Is it for fear of losing his job?

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/4LDM_AWcb6c&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.