Everyone is doing the best they can right now

One of my first jobs was working in an insurance claims office.  I  watched the vice president of the small company graciously deal with customer complaints about employees almost everyday. One day I asked her how she could possibly have such a positive attitude toward customers and employees when she dealt with complaints most of the day. Her response is something that has stuck with me. She said “no one is trying to do a bad job, everyone is doing the best they can right now”.  Since then, I have called upon those words of wisdom many times; they have saved me from judgement and aggravation more times than I can count. One thing I’d like to add to her wisdom is if we want people to improve then we should help them develop the tools and knowledge to do so. 

Regardless of their current achievement or academic level we must acknowledge that every kid is doing the best they can with the tools they have right now.

I had to come to the realization that sometimes biology is not the most important thing in a student’s life right now [gasp]. Sometimes forcing or reprimanding a student for not being able to be present in class can damage a relationship. Building relationships with students has been critical to my welcoming and productive classroom ecosystem. I can better understand students’ behaviors and help them develop the tools they will need to be successful in our class.  Tools like collaborating, leading, following directions, and using feedback rather than seeing it purely as criticism can be especially difficult for students. One year or semester may not be long enough to gain these skills but every student has the potential to be successful eventually. Every little bit helps. 

Some of the best days are the ah-ha moments but many of the best days are the breakthroughs connecting with the student seeing a struggling student get help from a peer watching a quiet or insecure student emerge. 

I want to do everything that I can to teach with C.A.R.E. 

  • Choices
  • Authentic experiences
  • Real-world applications
  • Empowerment to safely share their learning

Sometimes even with all of my best effort, students still aren’t accomplishing the tasks that I wish they would; either it is taking them longer than I expected or they are not reaching the goals that I had set for them. They’re just falling short. I have to remind myself that every student is doing the best they can right now. 

So what does this mean? Is there something else I can do for this particular student? Is there something outside of school that is out of my control that is keeping this kid from accomplishing stuff?

When a person is struggling, even small accomplishments feel like something. As teachers we can create these small accomplishments intentionally to build student confidence. Any assignment can be broken down into smaller chunks that students can complete successfully. The amount of support given to each student will vary.

Think of a student who comes to school everyday distracted by things that are happening in their life. They come to school every day. Every day we have an opportunity to show them what success feels like even if it is just a small one. Let’s not dwell on what work is not being done or what goals are not being met; we can focus on the positive.

It’s simple math, adding even small things is better than subtracting. 

Every accomplishment is a step toward a goal. So, when we see these kids that come to our class and just show up but don’t get any work done and don’t participate in class then perhaps this is our time to step back and remember that just coming to school is an accomplishment and that this may be the best that that kids could do on that day. One thing I remind myself is that kids aren’t giving me a hard time. Kids are having a hard time and it is difficult not to take interactions personally. Teaching is a very personal profession. We are investing in our students, we are passionate about our content, and we want to see everyone being successful. During these times I remind myself that everyone’s success will look different. Everyone’s success should look different. 

3 thoughts on “Everyone is doing the best they can right now

  1. Bonnie, this is all truth! Such daily a great reminder for those of us working with students in classrooms but also for just simply being human. If we approached every interaction and conversation each day with belief that everyone, at this moment, is doing the best we can, what better days we could all have and what a better world we would be living in! Thanks for sharing.


  2. Thank you for reminding us of these important facts, Bonnie. Even in the best of circumstances, we all need that person who will support us through our challenges. The best part is that once kids discover that you are their trustworthy ally, they’ll work harder for you– even in the midst of future struggles! This isn’t about perpetual free passes; it’s about establishing relationships in which both parties are willing to give each other their best.


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