Being Foolish Is Okay
It takes time to learn how to approach people. All people are different in the way they see, experience, and interpret life, and students are people.
I’ve failed at understanding and applying this many times before in life and in the classroom. Hell, I’ll probably fail a few (dozen, hundred?) times again.
But as I fail, I know that it is because I am “foolish” – meaning well, trying new things, but perhaps missing the mark. I reflect and learn, so I can live with it. I can live with it, because I know that I will always have the opportunity to apologize and become better, and this time, and every time thereafter, I will seize it.
Yes, it is the students’ ultimate responsibility to learn what is required and take action to improve their academic standing. But, they need guidance, encouragement, and the teacher understanding of where they are at and where they’re coming from. Plus, what works for one student gets you the mental middle finger from another.
The hard truth is that I’ve failed some students in the past by allowing outdated rhetoric of insistence on “the right way to do things,” one size fits all approaches I was taught in school, and false sense of fairness (equality and equity are not equal, right?) to guide my teaching.
You see, I did not possess the emotional maturity, patience, and experience to deal with such issues when I was a newb (and the teacher rookie year lasts like 3-5 years with constant hazing). Stephen R. Covey explains that ”when relationships are strained and the air charged with emotion, an attempt to teach is often perceived as a form of judgment and rejection. But to take the child alone, quietly, when the relationship is good and to discuss the teaching or the value seems to have much greater impact.”
Staying Hungry Is Paramount
So, it is important for us, the teaching cult followers turned educators, to “stay hungry” -always and forever strive to grow along with our students. PROFESSIONAL GROWTH IS IMPORTANT, BUT I BELIEVE EMOTIONAL GROWTH IS EVEN MORE SO. This is best achieved through reflection and learning from our past failures in the classroom, shortcomings in our relationships, and epic fails in life.
I’ve also learned not to beat myself up over the past. To dwell is to halt progress. It is way more important to contemplate the past failures critically, extract the lessons learned, and apply this newfound knowledge in similar future situations.
And, it is important to model this approach to our students.
If you happen to make a mistake or fail a student (or students) in some way, here’s a win-win, often counterintuitive, from failure to champ classroom success formula:
1. Admit it (shows you’re imperfect, aware of yourself, and confident).
2. Apologize for it (shows you’re authentic, accept responsibility, and that you care).
3. Say what you were thinking (shows risk-taking and good intention).
4. Say what you should have done (shows reflection and learning).
5. Say what you will strive to do in similar situations (shows fairness and willingness to change).
6. Ask for feedback (shows that their opinions really matter).
7. Reward yourself (In your mind: Do the Aaron Rodgers championship belt thing, or a Tiger Woods fist pump, or be like T.O. and call the President on your flip phone to tell him you just scored one for your team).
8. If you actually do have a flip phone… I’m not saying an asteroid needs to take you out like the T-Rex, but I’m just saying. And, keep it on the down low.
In fact, I would argue that the more opportunities you have to be “human” in front of your students, the stronger the bond you will form with them and the better you can influence them. Oh, and they will learn more and be more successful in your class.
Why? It’s simple really: You realized that you teach the Person Inside each and every one of your students, and Not The Subject. So, the moral of this story truly is: THE MORE YOU FAIL, THE MORE YOU SUCCEED.
Pretty cool, huh?
The Teacher World Takeover
And so, I realized that I’m on a mission to change the world. Grandiose? Perhaps. Attainable? It’s happening as I write this, because I believe that every action a teacher takes to support his students’ learning, no matter how small, alters the world for the better. Forever.
But I do not want to do this job alone.
We gotta combine and multiply our forces.
Become the Legion of Boon.
We can even wear capes and Air Jordans for mad hops.
I NEED YOU. THE WORLD NEEDS YOU. YOUR STUDENTS REALLY NEED YOU.
So... Are you with me, my teacher brethren?
Are you ready to change the world?
You know you have it in you.
And remember what Yogi Berra said: “The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be.”
And then there’s Steve: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”
Just Do It.
‘Cause This Ain’t No Industrial Age Homie…