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This Ain’t No Industrial Age Homie: Teaching In The Information Age, Part 3b: Steve Would Have Wanted It This Way

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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The hard truth is that I’ve failed some students in the past by allowing outdated rhetoric of insistence on “the right way to do things,” one size fits all approaches I was taught in school, and false sense of fairness (equality and equity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.

Or not.


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…

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I founded Focus 2 Achieve to provide innovative classroom tools that empower teachers and help students achieve more success. In my first life, I am a husband, a father, and a teacher. In my second life, I spend time discovering what "really works" aka "best practices" in education, problem-solving, and creating products for teachers and students. I recently wrote a book titled "Crush School: Every Student's Guide To Killing It In The Classroom." It is a book designed for Students that uses brain research and brain based learning strategies to help student become better learners. The book can be used by Teachers to help students learn more effectively, and Parents to help their children become more aware of how they learn. 


I have a BS in Earth and Environmental Sciences and an MA in Teaching. I teach high school Chemistry and Principles of Engineering and my professional interests focus on discovering and learning how the human mind learns and acquires lasting knowledge and skills, so that I can help my (and other) students learn more effectively and achieve greater academic success.


I am also a fan of the Jedi order (and use DA FORCE frequently), ninjas (both masked and unmasked), and the superhero in all of us. Oh, and I am on a Quest to Change the World, because I can. I believe we all can.

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Tuesday, 26 January 2016

    I think the more students see us as human and fallible like them, the more respect we will gain from them. I really like the way you show much respect to the students.

  • Oskar Cymerman | @focus2achieve
    Oskar Cymerman | @focus2achieve Tuesday, 26 January 2016

    So true Jon and thank you. Trying to sweep mistakes under the rug makes teachers look inauthentic. I find that I learn a lot about myself when I have these open conversations with my students. And, I learn what my students' needs are and our relationship is allowed to grow. At some point, I realized that most learning and the most important learning has nothing to do with the subjects I teach. Rather, it is about the process of learning and equipping students with life skills, as those translate to everything. Subjects are mediums. I don't know you, but I when I read your posts I feel how much passion and care you have for what you do and your students. People such as yourself inspire teachers and students to be more. Thank you for that.

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