The Performance of Teaching And Its Effect On Student Success

by | Nov 9, 2017

This week I was in a twitter chat about student stress and trauma – a topic most teachers can relate to having dealt with in their classrooms. As educators, our hearts are often heavy with the background information we have on students’ home-lives. We want to be there and help our students and often do so at the sacrifice of our own well-being. (Here’s a what I’m talking about). We stay up late worrying, we buy them what they are lacking with our own money (be that food, school supplies, or clothing), we go-all in emotionally and are invested – which easily leads to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue.

One of the questions that arose during this twitter chat I was in, stated “A stressed brain can’t learn.” And asked how to help these students be successful in the classroom.

Without hesitation, I responded. “A student’s success doesn’t need to look busy. But, it should look happy”.

After I typed and posted this I thought about it for awhile. What was such an automatic, almost knee-jerk response from me; actually spoke to a pervasive issue in modern education. The idea that we can’t see with our eyes what is happening in the minds of our students.


I know, I know, John Hattie (who is on fire right now in the world of education) is a HUGE proponent of visible learning, lots and lots of schools have jumped on the Hattie bandwagon and seen great success. It’s all about finding a strategy and sticking with it, paying attention to successes. I am not disputing Hattie. He, himself agrees that most strategies and innovations work in education.

What I am saying is, in education there is pressure, in some schools where student achievement is tied to teacher pay there is IMMENSE pressure, to perform. Many teachers are feeling trapped under the microscope of scrutiny from society, government, community, and administration.

Is it no wonder occupational stress is causing more and more teachers to rethink their purpose and consider leaving the profession? (Click here to see more)

The pressure to perform is major.


I think the key takeaway is the word “perform”. We don’t want our teachers performing we want them engaging. We want them digging deep, building relationships, connecting curriculum, and making a difference, but how can we do that if they must be putting on a performance. If when someone walks by their classroom they are expected to always be “on”.

Maybe teaching and learning doesn’t need to look “on”.

Maybe students don’t have to look busy.

Just maybe learning can look all sorts of different ways and success can be measured by more than just data points.


Think about it. Is there a discrepancy between how you want your students to learn and what you want your administrator to observe? If so, we have a MAJOR DISCONNECT in what is happening in education today.


Have you ever felt guilty letting your students have fun?

Have you ever closed your classroom door to hide your activities from passerbys?


I once had a kindergarten teacher peak out of her closed classroom to tell me, and I quote, “Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I am letting my students paint today”. A kindergarten teacher said that folks! Seriously.

It broke my heart.

Kindergarteners should be painting.

Students should get to work hands-on, learn from exploration and experimentation.

They should be encouraged to try new approaches and feel okay with making mistakes because that is true learning.

Student learning doesn’t have to look like a nose in a textbook, or a quiet classroom – in many cases it shouldn’t look like that.


If, as educators, we want to prepare our students for the future and truly provide them 21st century skills, then we have to be prepared to let go of the antiquated mindset of what learning looks like. We need to not feel guilty for letting students enjoy learning. And we have to welcome the world into our classrooms to show them that success in education can be unapologetically enjoyable.

Until recently hadn’t done much with Twitter. However, lately, I have been trying to engage in more in education-focused twitter chats (Follow me here @DrTiffanyCarr). I have found it to be a great way of connecting with educators and having pointed, fast-paced discussions on specific topics. Some topics have been directly related to the mission of Joy in Teaching, some not so much, but no matter what, the education Twitter chats that I have partaken in have been worthwhile of my time and have boosted my knowledge of a variety of topics related to education. If you haven’t engaged in any ed. chats, I suggest you find one or two that sound interesting to you (there are ones focused on technology, leadership, specific content/curriculum, and various regions). They are a great way of taking ownership of your professional learning. And don’t forget to follow me at @DrTiffanyCarr on Twitter.

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