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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Failure
Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Happy Friday!

Or Saturday, depending on when you read this.

As school draws closer (or maybe already back to the grind?), teachers and administrators experience a renewed sense of purpose. We reflect on how to start the year off right and how we can do things better.

I have an ironic, but very true answer for doing things better. It involves making mistakes. Lots of mistakes!

I took a screenshot of something I found on Pinterest a while ago and decided to make it into a poster you, I, and the rest of the Universe can print and use in their classroom, office, or spaceship.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

The Cycle of Failure

We've all been in the situation with that "difficult" student in our class where they shut down, let out a sign of discontent and throw an assignment aside while saying something like "I'm not doing this!". I know this can be frustrating as an educator but I want you to think about something other than trying to correct the students action but I want you to think: "Why are they doing this?".

Chances are (depending on what age you teach) that student has not been successful in school for most of their academic career. When they give effort, in return they get low grades, judgement or looks of disappointment. If this has been happening for 3, 5 or 10 years I can't really blame them for shutting down and not wanting to continue the cycle of failure they are stuck in. This can help explain no only the actions of the student but the reasons behind it. 

Re-Framing Failure as Opportunity

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Posted by on in Teaching with Rigor

escape hatch

A common theme I get asked about during my workshops is student motivation, or student effort.

No matter what management techniques or systems you have in your classroom to maintain behavior, instilling a culture of working hard, or "grit" as some like to call it, is probably one of the most difficult things you can accomplish as a teacher.

A huge problem with traditional teacher-lead instruction is that the cycle of learning is "closed". You instruct, assess, grade, and move on. Students who don't want to do the work, simply don't try, turn in half empty papers, or don't study and fail. In the student's mind, it is easier to fail than to work hard for a short time and succeed (especially if they are used to this cycle and failing within it.)

By just stamping a grade on my students' papers, I was providing them with what I call an "Escape Hatch". For some students, it becomes normal to simply fail and "escape" hard work, so that is what they were inevitably doing in my classroom.

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Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning


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.

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Posted by on in What If?


Too often our New Year’s Resolutions involve perfection: we want to look better, weigh less, and have whiter teeth (but not whiter hair). We want our students to score higher on those standardized tests, our lesson plans to be efficient and effective from the beginning, and our technology to work exactly the way it’s supposed to each and every time.

This New Year, forget perfection. Let’s get messy. Let’s take chances. Let’s make mistakes.

If we want our students to practice those vital critical-thinking skills and become problem-solvers, we need to let them practice without worrying about grades or assessments. Our students are terrified of being wrong, but we need to guide them toward the idea that failure is valuable. We need to let them explore, discover and even play on their own. We need to be comfortable with them discussing ideas among themselves. We must allow them to try out their hypotheses without giving our valuable advice beforehand.

Our peers are worried their students know more about technology than they do, so many times they are afraid to use ed tech in the classroom. If we want to lead others into becoming comfortable with educational technology, we must invite them into our classroom to see both how it can work and how we handle it when it doesn’t work. We must model the 21st Century teacher’s shift from a center stage position to a backstage position. We need to have honest communication and collaboration with our peers so we can learn from strategies that don’t work. If we want our peers to take a breath when mistakes inevitably happen, we need to remember to do the same ourselves.

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