Teaching students to work independently. Getting students to problem solve math problems without a teacher intervening. Facilitating student-led discussions. Asking students to engage in higher level thinking when analyzing literature. Doing any of these things in your classroom for the first time may be like pulling teeth.
The reason why higher level thinking doesn’t happen often in classrooms is because students can’t do it. But students can’t do it because they haven’t been taught how to do it. And if they don’t know how to do it, then it’s difficult to teach them.
When I reflect on my day, naturally it’s the lessons that flowed easily, when it seemed like all the students were “getting it” that help me to sleep better. However, if we never challenge our students, they can never rise to new levels. Higher expectations for all students doesn’t simply mean that if we built it, they will come. We have to help students reach our higher expectations and getting there from where we are now takes work.
So, here’s to pulling teeth. I wouldn’t encourage you to remain at frustration level for very long but pushing your students past their cognitive comfort zone is our job. Getting there may feel like pulling teeth but the good teachers keep pulling and less effective teachers just give up.