“It’s not my fault!” No, but it IS your responsibility.

It bugs me when teachers constantly blame students when things go wrong in the classroom. 

“They don’t listen to me, they have no respect, they’re a rat bag, they just don’t care, they’re a waste of space!” I’ve heard it all. 

Well, this is what I think.

When you chose to become a teacher, you accepted the responsibility to be accountable for student learning. That doesn’t mean that you will always succeed, but it does mean that you can’t ever give up trying. 

You can’t constantly shift the blame onto things that are external to your control;

“I’m not tall enough to command their respect,” says the short man at the high school. “My voice is not deep enough to get their attention,” says the new female teacher in the staff room.”They just don’t like me!” whines the supply staff. 

And- the worst- “He’ll never learn if he keeps talking/ignoring me/not doing his homework/playing with that fidget spinner!”

As soon as teachers say these things, they wipe their hands of any personal responsibility. They imply that some students are not actually capable of learning, which is simply not true.

They miss out on opportunities for growth, such as building up their teaching strengths in other ways.

Rapport-building and caring for their students, creating engagement by using humour or technology. Removing that damn fidget spinner and restricting dabbing to the playground.

I guess I understand the temptation to shift the blame. It’s easy. It lightens the load. It gives you something to laugh about with your colleagues. It helps you to sleep better at night, reassuring yourself that you’re a good educator. It means you don’t have to worry and anxiously rack your brain for ideas of WHY that kid might say/do that thing, and, as a result, WHAT you should do about it.

But at what cost?

It would mean that there’s no point in trying new approaches, keeping abreast of new research, honing your craft. And if you’re not trying to do better, reach more students, achieve even better outcomes, then what’s the point?

You can blame a student for their poor behaviour choices, for their lack of internal motivation, for their self-doubt and their perfectionism.

But YOU are responsible for how you work around those challenges. For helping them to see a different perspective. For showing them a different way.

You are responsible for choosing the way that you respond to student misbehaviour. For choosing to scream and reprimand or to remain calm and share your calm around. To be the adult or to act like a child.

There’s a lot of hype and controversy about performance pay in education because it’s arguable that you can’t blame a teacher for their students’ test results. There are so many factors involved that influence a child’s learning. But the teacher is a one of those factors, and your role is not a small one. Your influence is significant.

You are responsible for what happens with that test data, the information about learning that those test results provide for you. You are responsible for giving regular feedback to students and parents on their understanding of concepts so that test results are not a shock.

You are responsible for doing your best to mentally and emotionally equip students for tests, and for debriefing and letting go of steam afterwards. You are responsible for repeating instruction as many times as it takes for it to stick. You are responsible for differentiating that instruction so that each individual gets what they need. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2020/07/12/candle-differentiation/

So, you have a choice. You can choose to make the children, the curriculum, the parents, even society, the scapegoats when your lesson plan fizzles. This may feel good in the short term, but it won’t lead to any long-term change.

Alternatively, you can choose to take responsibility for all of your mistakes in all of their failed glory. You can turn the mirror on yourself, as uncomfortable as that may be, and look for ways that you may indeed be contributing to the problems that occur in your room.

You can look at, laugh at, let go of, all of the comical issues that inevitably arise in classrooms… and then use them to move on to bigger and better teaching tomorrow.

You don’t get to choose who is in your class and how they will act. But you do get to choose how you USE what happens in your classroom. That’s your responsibility.

What will YOU choose?


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  1. […] In a classroom, you can’t control the way a student chooses to behave. But you can control the way you proactively set up the environment and the learning activities to promote engagement, the way you praise positive behaviours, the supports you provide in order to promote success, and the way that you rapidly, firmly and compassionately respond to any misbehaviour that may occur. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2020/08/25/its-not-my-faultno-but-it-is-your-responsibil… […]


  2. I love the idea of “sharing your calm around.”
    By taking the position of responsibility for action, and curiosity about possible change, teaching can become invigorating rather that exhausting.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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