Newton’s Third Law of Teaching


Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

And it occurred to me tonight, as I sit here at 10:00pm utterly exhausted from a long Monday with an hour or two of lesson planning still ahead of me, that the same principle applies to teaching. Or at least to my teaching.

For every good thing that happens at school, every class that goes well, every moment I get to bond with my co-teachers and students, there is an equal and opposite bad thing that happens. Like my older boys deciding that today is the day to try out the F word in class or my after school class who seemed to have unanimously decided that they don’t understand a word of english.


For every student who is making eye contact with me and nodding along with my lesson there is another kid somewhere in the class falling asleep or watching the girls outside at PE through the window.

For every class that I walk into excited to interact with my students, there are the classes that I walk into thinking that I might very well be eaten alive by 36 unimpressed 14 year olds.

For every lesson that I am proud of there are the lessons that I am not. My “Choose Your Own Adventure – Deserted Island” activity can go ahead and die. I’m ready to never teach that ever again.

The activity for my after school class bombed today, but a few minutes later one of my grade 3 boys saw me sitting alone in the English classroom (with who knows what kind of look across my face) and popped his head in to say, “Teacher! Happy to see you!” and gave me a very rare genuine smile.

Nothing seems to happen in isolation. The bad always comes with the good.

Take today for example. We had school pictures today and as I am to be immortalized in these kids memories for the rest of their lives based on this one photo, I wanted to make sure I looked nice this morning. And I also wanted to bring some food in for our office because that’s a part of the office culture that I’ve been wanting to be a part for a while now.

All that to say I woke up earlier than usual.

So after having gone to bed much later than I should have I woke up at 6:15, got ready, went to the bakery, walked back up to school, and by 8:00 I was at my desk working on lessons. I proudly put the pound cake on the office table and later that day sat with 3 of my co-teachers and ate it over coffee and long-winded sighs about Mondays. I got to break through the foreigner label for a bit and be just another tired co-worker eating some cake and coffee during our planning period. Those are my favorite moments at school.

But because I woke up earlier than usual I am now that kind of tired where your entire body just feel kind of fuzzy and your eyes start to stare if you don’t look around every few seconds. And because I have to miss Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week for teacher training, I need to submit all my new lessons for next week by tomorrow. And so now that good idea of waking up early is coming back to bite me.

For every success there is a failure. But of course without failure the success would be meaningless, so I guess for now I’ll just try to let the bad ones roll off my back and know that something good is around the corner.



Here’s a picture of me holding up a shirt that, in strangely blunt and awkward English, describes how I feel in those bad moments. Suffer through them, because everything else is worth it.


Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Newton’s Third Law of Teaching

  1. Ah, dear Devon…teaching can be such sweet sorrow( to paraphrase a line)! Always the beautiful feeling of sweet success only to wonder the next day where it all went…and then the glorious feeling comes again! Kids in middle school seem the same there as here! Hang in there! 💕


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