Failure Is Optional

Our elementary staff meets weekly on Monday afternoons.  The time is set aside to discuss upcoming events, new initiatives or professional development.  Two weeks ago, my principal and I tag-teamed to share the overview and expectations of technology integration this year.  In my eagerness to share the overflow of all that I have learned in the past two years, I talked a little too long and shared a little too much.

While my passion for learning and using technology was received well enough, in my mind I knew,

I had blown it.

My goal this year is simple.  Begin building the culture needed to experiment, explore, and equip teachers in selecting and using technology purposefully in the classroom.  Knowing culture is borne from relationships and environment my intention has been to listen to teachers, to build trust, and to meet them where they are in their learning.  Talking at people and overwhelming people does nothing to build relationships.  I was upset with myself because I had been so intentional until this point.

So, what now?

I knew I had messed up.  The perfectionist in me beat myself up and moped about it for a couple of days, and then the learner took over. I could learn from this and make it right.  Failure is temporary and is based on perception.  Failure is optional.  I hadn’t failed.

With this realization, I began planning for the next week.  Many things came up during the week that threatened to deter my “do-over.”  I chose multiple times to not go with what would be easiest or most comfortable, but pushed for what I knew would be most helpful.  The plan was for staff to learn new ways to use the technology we already have.  The directive was simple, “Share what you know.”  Our preK – 5 teachers were divided into groups and assigned a facilitator.  These are the comments I received the following day.

“Yesterday afternoon was great. We need to do this on a regular basis.”

“It helped me realize how much I really know and can share.”

“That was very helpful for me.”

“I learned things I could come back the next day and put into practice.”

As teachers, we need to acknowledge that the very thing we find a waste of our time is what we so often do or go back to doing in our classroom.  Our classrooms should be guided conversations with all members encouraged to participate.  Students should have time to practice, make mistakes, and be allowed to make it right or “do over.”

I can already hear pushback in my own head. Having taught middle school students and raising two of my own, I know failure can be a real thing.  We can not make choices for others no matter how much we want to, and we can not make anyone want to do something.  So yes failure can be real, but it is optional.

What do you think? Agree, disagree? Leave a comment.

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Igniting the Passion to Learn

My students are blogging! The following post was given to them as their assignment and as a mentor text. I am fortunate to be at a small PK-12 school where we see kids grow up through the years, but it is fascinating to read what they say about themselves especially at this critical and formative stage in their lives.

Your first paragraph should tell the reader a little about yourself. For example:

My name is Mrs. Whittington and I teach 6th grade. I have an awesome husband and two fabulous children. My favorite thing to do is to spend time with my family. Conversations around the dinner table, being snowed in at home together and vacations are some of my most precious memories. My favorite sound is hearing my kids laugh together in the other room. I also love to read and listen to music. One thing I like to do that you might not know is that I like to create things. I have made everything from cakes that look like a forest to newsletters and decoupaged furniture.

In From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Claudia wanted to learn everything about everything. Later, she decided to focus just on one thing and become an expert on the mysterious statue. She developed a passion for the statue called “Angel” and the mystery surrounding it. Passion is defined as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. When people have a passion for something, they want to learn more about it and often become an expert at it. What do you have a passion for that you would want to learn “everything” about and become an expert? Your second paragraph should tell about your passion. How long have you loved this thing? What do you already know, and how will you learn more about this passion?

My passion is learning and helping others find the excitement in learning. I know that might sound a little strange to you, or maybe not since I am “the teacher.” What I have found is that no matter what sparks my interest from time to time; I love researching, reading and learning more about it. More than that, I love to see students excited about learning. Learning does not always have to be monotonous and boring, it can be an exciting journey. I am passionate about helping others see that as well.

My hope in blogging is to learn more by thinking about and writing about what we are learning. I also hope we will be able to connect with other classrooms around the country and the world to help us ignite the passion of learning!

Teachers: How do you help students continue to love learning or reignite the love of learning? What about those necessary, but somewhat monotonous things that they need to learn. Are there benefits in learning that not everything is fun?

baby steps… baby steps…

If you do not recognize this quote from the classic comedy What About Bob?  Watch it!  It is a classic must-watch comedy.

It is not that I didn’t want to start a blog. I really did! No one was trying to talk me into blogging (except all the other blogs I found myself drawn to). I have always enjoyed writing. I encourage eleven and twelve-year-old kids to write each day and have even set up blogs for them. Still, I have had the hardest time writing this first post.

I started thinking about what was holding me back. Perfectionism? Fear of being transparent; of not meeting someone’s standard, or worse yet, my own? Time constraints? Intimidation by the uber-bloggers I glean so much from? Honestly, it could be any or all of these at any given time. This self-reflection eventually lead me to think about what holds my students back when I ask them to think outside of the box, or simply give their thoughts on a topic. How often have I been asked of a twelve-year-old if her answer is right, or where he can find an answer in the book after I have given them an open-ended question with thought being the only measure of right or wrong?

Sometimes, I wonder if my love for middle school students stems from the fact that I can still so easily go back there… to that place of insecurity somewhere between the freedom of childhood and those first tastes of understanding your purpose and passion in life. Those places in life that we all still find ourselves on occasion where all we can do is take baby steps, because anything else is overwhelming. Thankfully, I no longer have to live there in the middle of it. This side of many years of living, learning and loving enables me to look past all of those obstacles to my goal, knowing I will survive rejection and disappointment.

The fact remains that I have classrooms of students who are still living there. My goal, my passion is to help them see glimpses of who they are meant to be and to help them become comfortable with their voice. Some of them will need to take baby steps at first, until those things that seem so difficult can be done in full stride. I understand completely.

There it is. It is a beginning. I will not claim anything else for this post, except that it is the start line…. baby steps… baby steps… I did it! I wrote my first post!