What happens when you work hard, put in good effort, and don't achieve the results you desire? What happens when you think you have done everything as well as you could, and in the end you failed to achieve your goal?
Step 1 - ASSIGN BLAME! -- You get frustrated, upset, typically we react with some form of emotion. We may blame others and deny our role in the failure. I will admit that I have experienced both sides of this as a teacher. I have definitely been blamed for students not achieving their goal, and I have been frustrated at students when they didn't accomplish a task the way I thought it should be done.
Step 2 - REFLECTION OF LEARNING PROCESS -- This assumes people get beyond step 1 of assigning blame.
After you realize that you have failed where do you do next? You still have a goal unfulfilled. Now before you try to do the same activity the same way and expect different results, I believe is similar to the definition of insanity, it is time to reflect. Think about what happened. Start with what was your objective or goal? Next consider the actions you took and the results that you achieved. Ask yourself, did you understand the goal or objective, was it obtainable or did you need assistance? Did you use every resource available to you to achieve your goal? Where did you go wrong?
Step 3 - REVISED PLAN OF ACTION -- Now that you have uncovered areas that could have gone better, it is now time to create a better plan of action. If you still have the same objective or goal, what will you differently to achieve this goal? Does it mean asking for clarification, or help from others. Does it mean finding resources or asking questions? For the teacher - it likely means reteaching the lesson, or adjusting the directions to clarify for the student. It means taking ownership of the areas that you didn't measure up. It is the ability to admit where you need to make your changes and own your failure.
Step 4 - IT IS ONLY A FAILURE IF YOU END THE PROCESS - Failure is part of life. I helped my daughter learn to ride her bike this summer, and there were more failed attempts than I can count. If after any one of these failed attempts she had quit, given up, she never would have achieved her goal. Her summer might have ended with a different feel. Instead she picked herself up, dealt with the bumps and bruises and she and I came up with a better plan to help her ride down the street without dragging me behind her.
This week I had my share of failure. I gave one class of students a test, and when I looked at the results, I realized I failed them. I didn't provide adequate instruction for them to understand the material in a deep or meaningful manner. They took the test, and struggled with some of the ideas that I thought we had covered well. What I found is they didn't have a full grasp of the knowledge. The first thing that crosses a teacher's mind might be to simply blame them for not studying enough. When I saw the overall results were low, I realized, while their individual preparation may be questionable, I am accountable for the class's results.
What do you do in this situation? I looked at how I taught the material, and while I did a lot of activities, and created opportunities to engage in the learning and understanding, they missed some of the ideas. My plan - reteach the lessons. I spent the next two days focused on teaching the main concepts, going over readings, quizzing them and checking their understanding. After two days of reteaching, I retested them on the content. The results while not perfect, were a significant improvement. My most important take away is to take more opportunities throughout teaching the material to check for understanding. I need to do more formative assessments where I check and recheck their knowledge, then adjust my instruction accordingly.
My second example came with my freshmen world history. A few weeks ago I asked them to present a position to members of the school board, and was amazed at how well things went. Maybe this positive result created a false sense of accomplishment and understanding, because today that bubble burst. I asked students to do another significant critical thinking exercise. The premise behind this was to persuade elected officials to vote for their position. In order to demonstrate their idea, they had to compare neanderthals to humans.
Here is why I and the students failed - I made the assumption that they knew how to create a comparison paper, and they didn't ask for clarification or help when they began to struggle with the task. I didn't provide adequate instruction to them about how to write a paper where they compare and contrast two groups. They can tell you how they are similar or different, but to take the next step of turning that into a persuasive argument eluded them.
Next step - revise instructions- I took the opportunity to discuss this issue with them before I graded any of their papers. We discussed together what went on, and the issues of communication between us. I then laid out a plan to revise their papers to include a better representation of their ideas and a better end product.
Now I also have revised expectations. If I had provided the revised instructions, and had the conversation about their level of understanding of how to create a comparative essay before starting the lesson, I would expect higher level of written expression. As my assessment presentation is flawed, I need to adjust for the likelihood that students are going have a better comparison, but they will likely still struggle with the connection between the comparison and their thesis.
Lessons learned from my failure -
1. I need to teach the skills necessary to demonstrate or present the content, not just the content. I have to include some sort of pre-assessment to determine their level of understanding of the skills or technology being used to assist their demonstration of understanding. In this case, I assumed they understood how to write a comparison paper. They demonstrated the ability to make comparisons, the issue was with their understanding of how to connect the ideas of similarities and difference, to their thesis.
2. I may have to provide more in class, guided instruction where students create their products. I was checking in with students frequently when they did their presentation topic, and for this paper, I only worked with them the first day and then turned them loose.
3. Be Reflective, seek help, and be receptive to criticism. No one likes to hear that they didn't measure up. No one enjoys failing. So when faced with a challenge, you can either continue to do it the same way and wonder why you or your students haven't achieved the results you want, or you can ask the tough questions. Be prepared for the sometimes harsh realities. In the end if you are serious about achieving a goal, you have to open yourself up to hearing you could have done better.
4. Failure is a learning opportunity. We are too quick to dismiss it as a total and complete loss. There are people would would say the Packers' reaching the NFC championship to only lose to the 49's is a total waste of a season. Some are too quick to discard the learning and enjoyment the experience up to the point of failure brought. Fail = First Attempt At Learning! Please don't be discouraged with failure. Don't let that first attempt be your last attempt!
Friday night something special happened, something that I believe needs to happen much more frequently. Now I want to do justice to the event as it has meaning for everyone involved in it. However I believe this one moment in time should be more of a lesson to all of us than an incredible experience for a young man, his family and his community. I think what this amazing young man has done should be more about the lessons we can learn from him and make strides to create these experiences for everyone in our lives much more frequently.
I know Noah, and say "Hi" to this young man on a daily basis. He is always so positive, upbeat, and a character with his seemingly endless number of stories. Noah is a beloved young man in this community. Whether his classmates and teachers truly realize it, Noah is teaching us lessons everyday. Noah has connected a community, a school, and individuals. He has allowed us to share in his life, his struggles and his accomplishments. When interacting with Noah, I find myself slowing down not wanting to miss anything he is going to share with me during that brief encounter. He teaches me patience, enthusiasm and passion. He is filled with excitement and joy every time I see him. I often find myself wondering how he is able to always be so happy when I am running around often stressed about not getting things done. When I have a free moment, I reflect on things in my life, and with the events of Friday, I again found myself thinking about priorities. Noah has reminded me of the things that are important. The relationships in my life, the things that make me happy and the compassion for others.
Noah's experience is as unique as every individual on this planet. Noah, like all of us has good days and bad days, things we like and dislike. We all have challenges in our lives, and what I really am left with after getting to know Noah and Friday night's amazing tribute is one simple lesson. There are many more people like Noah out there who need to have an opportunity to shine. There are many more of our students, friends, classmates that have unique struggles that need to be accepted and cherished in similar ways as we have with Noah this weekend and during his time here.
I hope my message is clear thus far. I am so grateful to my colleagues, coaches, staff members who helped create this opportunity. I just found out it was the idea of the students, his teammates to put this together, and make this tribute to happen. I think it is a wonderful experience for Noah and his family. I also want all of us to be reminded that Noah isn't the only person among us who needs or deserves to be treated as a superstar. I hope we take Noah's experience and build upon it. We look for other opportunities to showcase our students, classmates, colleagues, family and friends.
Here is the link to the story and video. I commend the local news station for doing a wonderful job of telling Noah's story and giving him his due. NOAH'S STORY
Professional Development in my experience has typically been met with a similar response as hearing the dentist say "You need a root canal." Or maybe the mechanic comes back to the waiting room to tell you there is some bad news and it is going to cost you. Or on the day you plan on being in the computer lab, you hear the announcement over the PA - "The internet is down and we don't have any idea how long." Okay so I am guessing by now you are understanding the message.
This is how PD has been in the past. This year my school has made strides to re-imagine Professional Development. Our first full day of PD I was asked to share some of my ideas because a few of my colleagues were beginning to see my growth through collaboration via Twitter. I was honored to share some of my experiences and tried to share with them the power of collaborative thinking. I left them with a message from Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) and his book Teach Like a Pirate - "Do you have any lessons that you could sell tickets to?" I think I have created just a couple this year so far, but these are ones that I had been working on from this summer. I need to continue to work and grow to make this a regular part of my teaching practice. I say this because the question creates a pretty lofty goal. It is a challenge, and it is intimidating. I also mention it because of the experiences that I had this weekend that I will share in a moment.
Yesterday, October 19th I attended edcampgb and was able to meet in person a colleague I have grown to know and learn from over the past few months. Josh Gauthier (@mrgfactoftheday) who teaches in a district only a half an hour away. It was great to meet him, but it was an incredible learning experience. Josh wrote a post about his experience, please read about it here.
For those who haven't been to an edcamp, they are amazing experiences. The premise behind them is there is no leader, no keynote speaker, no prescribed sessions. It is up to those present to propose and run the sessions. The video presentation below helps to explain the process. I almost forgot, edcamps are free to attend, the only thing is, you have to give up your time and talents to participate.
My learning at edcampgb was a new and exciting experience. The first session is one that I proposed about how we can celebrate and share our successes in our classrooms. I wanted to hear how others were connecting their classrooms to parents and the community. I shared some that I had learned from, Paul Solarz (@paulsolarz) who has an incredible site full of ideas of lessons his students have created or participated in. There are many others and I don't want to slight anyone, but Paul's site was the inspiration for adding classroom happenings to my site.
As teachers shared ideas, we talked about how to help students connect to classroom content and keep up when absent. I started using Remind 101 this year, and many teachers use that. Some use google calendars to help students keep track. I use google docs that are linked in my website that include daily activities and assignment due dates. These also include directions for the assignments that are linked to separate google docs. This idea I stole from Reuben Hoffman (@reubenhoffman).
After this session, I wasn't sure where I wanted to go. We had just started BYOD this year, and I wanted to learn more about this, but there was also a session on social media, and I wanted to share and learn about ways to connect. When I was deciding where to go, Ben Hommerding (@bhommerding) was passing someone in the hall and mentioned BYOD and no one had shown up for it. I heard this conversation from behind, and spun around to say, I would love to hear more about BYOD, so the two of us sat down and discussed some great ideas of how to use and engage students. He shared with me his site that has a ton of resources, I have to look up the sites he shared with me, and I will add them later.
He showed me apps, augmented and aurasma both deal with augmented reality. We played around with these and talked about the possibilities. Students could use them to take a virtual field trip in the Roman Colosseum or other places recreated through Google Sketchup. We walked through Camp Randal home of the Wisconsin Badgers with our time.
We discussed google hangouts new features. I am still trying to figure it out, but they added the ability to text and even make calls using a number you create, so you can connect with parents or students without giving out your personal phone number.
Ben also is the proud owner of Google Glass. He presented to the entire group about the technology before the session that I sat down one on one with him, and I was excited to get the opportunity to try those things out. However when sitting down one on one, I never even thought about asking him to try them on. So I missed my opportunity. That is until I made a final plea -- begging actually on Twitter during our final session of the day. As we were wrapping things up, Ben came up to me and offered me an opportunity to try them out. They were pretty amazing. But alas another missed opportunity, like so many other people of the day who got their pictures taken wearing them, the thought eluded me to chronicle this experience. I was so caught up in the learning that I didn't think about documenting what might have been the only time I will ever get to wear a pair of Google Glass.
The last session of the day was about Teaching Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. Josh Gauthier started the conversation, explaining the basics of the book. The room was backed with teachers. We began tweeting and sharing ideas, and as the conversation continued, there were more and more mentions of Dave Burgess in the posts. Dave jumped into our conversation, and he might have been at a conference in California at the time himself, but he started connecting with teachers sitting around me. As the conversation continued, Dave offered a prize to be handed out to someone in our group for participating in a great conversation not so much about his book, but about the ideas contained within. The principles for changing education by building relationships and connecting learning to the students through great lessons and experiences.
This leads me back to my district. I received the agenda for this coming Friday's PD day, and in it they included a "Ticket" Lesson. They heard my challenge during my PD day presentation a few weeks ago, and they are building on that mission. We are trying to create better experiences for our students through better learning experiences and professional development for our teachers. I am very excited to see the changes to our PD.
My final thought is to give a few shout outs to amazing educators who have embraced educational change and are creating innovative ways of helping teachers learn and grow. The first is Ryan McLane (@McLane_Ryan) who created a Teach Like a Pirate day at his school. The video is below. He also started Social Studies Teach Like a Pirate Chat #sstlap and asked me to moderate it last week Thursday at 8 PM CST. I am hoping to continue helping this chat move forward sharing and growing.
Another all star for changing the format of PD is Arin Kress (@ArinKress) who created a flipped PD experience by connecting to teachers around the world through skype. You can read about her experience on her blog post here. She as able to connect to some ground breaking educators who shared their experiences. The format of the PD day is revolutionary to the world of education. Please read her blog, share your ideas, fight for change in how we learn and grow as educators.
This morning, was like most mornings, the kids get up super early and climb into bed with my wife and I before we get up, eat breakfast and head off to church. I wish I could say that was stronger in my faith, and had all the answers to the important questions in life. What I have found in the last few months is that the pastors at my church have been speaking directly to me. During the past few weeks, I have found the sermons really connected to things in my life. I again wish I have been able to apply those lessons more completely in my life and make the changes I desire to make my life more complete. My intention is not to preach to you from my soap box, but rather to share another revelation in my life.
Today's sermon was about worshiping false idols. She began her sermon with an analogy from her youth where kids were asked to make something that sounded like dioramas. I apologize to Pastor Lori, I didn't tune in right away, so the setting of the story is a little fuzzy. But to the point, she was talking about kids creating something that represented things that were important in their lives. She talked about the various things like sports, dance, possessions, beauty, well you get the idea.
This caught my attention because I shifted to thinking about how cool of a sociology lesson I could make out of this where students create... yeah I know... not what church is about, but I am being honest here. She continued to build on making her connection to what is important to us isn't always what should be important. She gave an example of the church's confirmation class which in my humble opinion does a tremendous job of getting young people connected to their faith through some amazing service activities helping others. Students are asked to participate in a number of activities, retreats, and projects to help them self fund their trips. These opportunities and activities are great experiences, however they require a time commitment from the students and their families. This is where the lesson dropped out of the sky like the anvil hitting Wile E Coyote -
Parents complained about having to give up time to participate in these activities. One family even said, "Sports come first in our family." And Pastor Lori gave them credit for at least being honest. I too understand the pressures of sports having coached various sports at the high school level for twelve of my fourteen year teaching career and years before I was a teacher. I can empathize with the family for feeling the pressure to have their son/daughter live up to their commitments to their teams. I can empathize with them when I find myself thinking about lesson planning in church instead of really listening to the message. I understand the pulls from society to measure up and complete so many tasks in so little time.
As I really began to think about the sermon I realized how much this applied to my life. While she used sports, my idol has been work. I have devoted so much time and effort to my improving my teaching, connecting to my students and creating experiences for them that I have made sacrifices. I have sacrificed my relationships with my family. I have given up participation in activities with the kids to grade papers or lesson plan. Connections to friends and extended family have been put on hold to maintain sanity at work. I love what I do, but I have put so much time and effort into it that I have lost out on opportunities to be part of my kids experiences with them as they grow and learn.
Yes Pastor Lori meant for me to take away the message that I am not connecting to God and I need to make an effort with that relationship, and I honestly think that if I work on that relationship, a lot of the other issues in my life will also become easier. My immediate connection however, was to think about my need to prioritize and live in the moment. The lessons I teach while important, cannot match the significance of coloring pictures or reading stories with my daughters. Grading papers while necessary cannot take the place of date night with my wife. Filling out paper work, or any of the other mundane tasks in education are NOT more important than sitting down for supper and listening to my kids tell me about their day.
Another Amazing event of this whole conversation is that I had been talking about my struggles this year with other teachers on Twitter, and a friend Kimberly Hurst @khurdhorst jumped into the conversation. She shared the video below that her Pastor presented to them today as part of their service.
I heard Pastor Lori's message loud and clear. I need to stop making work my number one priority. It will always remain important, but my connection to God and my family need to become my top priorities not only in thought but in action.
When the lights go out, my life will not be about how well I wrote my SLO, my lesson plans, how quickly I returned homework, but its about relationships. My family doesn't care if I created a great class website, if I connected to all the Common Core Standards, if my school's report card is exceeds expectations. They care if I will push them on the swings, teach them to ride their bikes, give them extra hugs and kisses at bedtime, give them a piggy back ride, or make their favorite meals. And for my wife make time to talk about things other than the kids or work. For her I need to disconnect with the distractions of the world and plug into sitting on the couch and yes even cuddle while watching one of those romantic movies geared for women.
I am making progress on this, but I am sure my family would see it as very slow progress, but I am trying and determined to grow and develop my personal relationships because while they count on me for support and help, I rely on them to get me through. I spent the last two week nights trying to focus on spending time with them. I played follow the leader with my youngest daughter, and I wish I would have recorded the sounds of laughter filling the house. She was having so much fun she had the whole family laughing. I spent time listening to my oldest as she learned to play the piano. My wife and I were able to squeeze some time in there to talk and listen to each other, and I learned some new things about her that make me love and appreciate her more.
I am a work in progress and with the Lord's help and the patience of my family, I will continue to learn to be the person, father and husband I should be. I don't have answers for you, I just have finally opened up my heart to hearing the message the Lord has been trying to share with me.
Thank you for taking the time to read another one of my ramblings and I hope you take time this week and in your life to reflect on what is important and make the necessary changes. I will continue to struggle with living up to my own expectations and will always turn to my those important to me for help and guidance. Please know you are not alone in the
Today my classroom was transformed into a school board meeting where students presented to members of the school board, and teachers. I have taught the lesson, "What should be taught in schools, Big Bang or Intelligent Design?" for the past few years. However after a summer of learning, I decided to challenge my students to move beyond the activity of discussing and writing a paper for my eyes only. I presented them with the scenario that they will be creating a presentation for actual members of the school board. So I had to contact members of our local school board, and am very pleased to report that I was able to get two to agree to be in my classroom for the two days of presentations for three of my World History classes.
Students were asked what they think should be taught in schools. They were presented with information about the two ideas that help us understand how we got here. The two theories were presented as best I understand them with the help of readings that students interacted with and we discussed as a class. In the presentation of this activity, I make it very clear that neither one of them is perfect in their explanation, and it is okay to believe whatever they choose to believe.
The task is pretty simple. You are to present to the panel, what should be taught, and support your ideas for why you chose this position. It is a difficult concept, and a controversial topic, and we discussed some of the ideas surrounding these theories as we studied and prepared for the presentations. Students can share and include their opinions and beliefs in their presentations, but they were instructed not to approach this as if it were solely about their own personal beliefs. They must consider all students, parents and teachers in their decision.
This is my first time completing this activity, and I wish I could share their hard work and amazing projects with the world. The students have worked incredibly hard and the results should be celebrated.
What an amazing experience! I had to change text color to hopefully draw your attention to the fact that this experience was incredible! It is one that I will remember for the rest of my life. I expected the presentations to go well, especially since students had put in such hard work. However, I found this experience transformed my role from evaluator to cheer leader. I have talked to each student over the past week several times about their project and had a feeling about how each of them would perform. There were some I knew would excel in their demonstration of knowledge and ability to defend their point of view. There were others that I thought might struggle in this format. As I watched the students present, I started making note of the things they did well, and areas that they could improve upon as I have always done. But after a few presentations, I realized how amazed I was at their efforts. No, not all of them were perfect presentations. What they turned out to be, was an inspiration to me. I stopped watching the presentations thinking about how to evaluate them, but more excited to see the awesomeness that is this group of students. I was most impressed with the presentations by the shy students, the soft spoken students, the ones that in our conversations needed more guidance. When these students stepped in front of the panel, I wanted them to succeed. I wanted them to show their knowledge and understanding. What I saw was outstanding. They shined! For some they overcame a fear, others were able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding beyond what I had seen before their final presentation. I have never been more proud of my students than I am right now.