Take What the Defense Gives You: 3 Ways to Stop a Failing Lesson

The biggest mistake most new teachers make is to think that they are prepared for lessons when they are not.  Not every lesson is going to go well, but it’s the reaction to a failing lesson that counts. Remember: the lesson is only a failure if you don’t do one of three things.

1. Adapt on the fly

2. Over plan

3. Learn from what went wrong and adjust later

Today, we’ll focus on adapting on the fly or in sports jargon “Take what the defense gives you.”   When I coached football we came up with a game plan before every game.  We thought that we would achieve the most success by throwing the ball to a certain receiver, running the ball with a certain running back, maybe the defense was susceptible to play- action (fake run and then pass) because they were overaggressive on defense.

However, as Tommy Franks said  “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”  Students shouldn’t be seen as the enemy, but the quote holds true in this situation. Successful coaches, like successful teachers, realize that nothing usually goes according to plan.

This is when you have to change your internal thinking from “Oh no. My lesson is failing” to “what can I do right now instead of what I had planned to get the students engaged.” Take a deep breath to relax.  Or try box breathing for a few rounds (pictured below).

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Maybe the students aren’t engaged in your direct instruction using PowerPoint.  Okay, no big deal.  Good thing you thought of alternatives beforehand. Have the students open up their books and do an SQ3R activity.

The key in this situation is not to become emotional about the situation.  Students will pick up on this and will most likely respond negatively.  If its math, break out math bingo.

The bottom line is that when your game plan isn’t working, find something that does instead of forcing your plan on a defense that is determined to stop it.


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