It's Not You, It's Me

One of my favorite scenes from my long love affair with the great show Seinfeld is a conversation between George and his girlfriend. The line being used in this conversation is, “it’s not you, it’s me.” Obviously, George and his girlfriend are using this time tested line to justify a breakup. However, I think this classic line has a real place in a classroom.

When students are misbehaving, off task, not doing work, or otherwise acting “bad”, we often blame the student. We reprimand them, write detention slips, claim a learning disability, and a whole host of other things aimed at “fixing” the student. I think instead of looking at the student, we might need to look at ourselves and our practice.
“It’s not you, it’s me.”
This should be our initial response to such issues in the classroom. If a student is off task or misbehaving, are we challenging and engaging them with worthwhile activities? Is our instruction tailored to their needs or are we trying a one size fit all approach? When a student is being lazy and not doing their class work, are we looking at the work we are assigning them? Is it high quality and connected to the student’s needs and interests? Are we giving student’s choice and control in their learning or simply telling them what and how to learn?

While this may seem so simple, how often are we looking at our own practice before trying to “fix” a student? Too often it is easier to look at a child’s perceived shortcomings when in fact the truth is, “It’s not you, it’s me.”


sarcasticnemesis said...

Nice! This is something I have been thinking more about recently. I get a lot of flack for my position that I need to look at myself when things go wrong. Common opinion seems to be that kids should simply do as their told and keep their mouths closed. I must say, it would sure be nice if this happened, but then I look at my reactions when I'm bored, or pushed too hard, or asked to do something I don't want to do. Even as an adult I resist or quit or rebel. I blame the oppressor and expect a change. Can we realistically expect less from students? Do they not have a right to demand to be heard. Even if they demand it in a passive-aggressive manner?

Allison Berryhill said...

Excellent post--and great comment by @sarcasticnemesis too. Another way of looking at this is to ask "What is this kid (or his/her behavior) trying to say to me?" I truly believe it is my JOB to hear students' spoken and unspoken messages, engage them, and respond to their learning needs. I'm guessing that teachers willing to view student behavior from this perspective ultimately have fewer kids shut down or disrupt their classrooms.

Eric Johnson said...

When things disintegrate during a lesson or activity, it almost certainly a situation I contributed to or created. It is a fact that I have realized for quite a while. The trick is to reflect and get better the next time, without beating yourself up and piling on oneself. Great post.

mona said...

Josh, I disagree with that saying. Here we go again blaming the teacher for students misbehaving. Students spend a great portion of their day in schools, but these students come from homes, from parents who are supposed to bare some discipline. I do not agree that misbehaving is due to the failure of teachers to engage and keep students interested. Some students misbehave because they simply have no rules or discipline at home.
I understand that some students come from foster homes, single parents homes, or are cared by guardians. But i think if parents or guardians choose to have a child or care for one, they should communicate with teachers if any concerns arise in the academics or behavior of the student. I see that the role of teachers is growing and the role of parents is fading away. I work in an elementary school, we have to teach, discipline, we have to make sure that students are fed, have the appropriate clothing when it's cold, and more. One student in our class needs glasses, we have been sending a parent notes,and calling since the beginning of the year and we also sent her a note about the Lion Club free glasses program, it has been two months now,and we did not hear from the parent yet. In the classroom we are trying to help the student and accommodate to this problem as much as we can.
Where are the parents? " It's not you, it's me" could apply to few situations, but it should not always apply to teachers. Parents should wake up to the reality that they play a major role in their kids' education as much as teachers do. I am a parent myself, and 99% i take the teacher side. It is my responsibility to teach, feed, discipline, follow up with the teacher and school. If my son is failing or misbehaving I ask my self I'm I doing enough?
When you asked "Is our instruction tailored to their needs?"I see that students' needs are growing more and more and it is hard for teachers to keep up with them anymore. Teaching and learning involve parents, teachers, students, and communities, but it sounds that the only factor in education nowadays is teachers. Blame them for failure, and forget about them when credit is due.

Josh Stumpenhorst said...


Thanks for taking the time to read and comment but I think you miss the intent of the post. Yes, there are some parents that don't do what they should do as a parent. Yes, there are students that have a large difficulty paying attention and have behavior disorders. However, in most cases student's disinterest and inability to focus has to do a great deal with the lessons being taught in the front of the classroom.

I can not control what "baggage" my students walk into my classroom with. I can however, control how I teach and what I ask them to do as well as the relationships I foster. It is a very easy way out to blame parents or kids for issues in our classrooms. As soon as I point the finger at a kid or parent, I stop reflecting on me. Are there exceptions to this? Sure, there are with everything in life. I guess I just choose help kids rather than blame them.

Muna Abunaser said...

Thanks for your response. I agree that we should not judge or blame, I was not pointing the finger or blaming parents or students, as i mentioned in my post the learning process should involve parents, teachers, students and communities.