Friday, December 12, 2014

FAILING as a teacher.

I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed - Michael Jordan

A few weeks ago in a conversation with a teacher friend she stated in reference to teaching children "I feel like I fail them every day". I promptly replied "Me too! Thats what makes great teachers".

A few weeks on I am still thinking about my knee jerk reply. Of course failing kids every day doesn't make you a great teacher - how ridiculous to think that. I have been pondering where in my psyche this statement came from.  

Thinking and reflecting is messy, it's not logical or linear its a big mash of experiences that mould your thinking and into the person you are, so in an attempt to structure my thoughts, here are my thoughts on failing as a teacher:

* Everyday I can tell you five things I should have done and could improve on in my teaching. I am my own worst critic. Knowing I am not perfect and actively trying to do something about it is exhausting but is something I am committed to doing as a learner and as a teacher.
- I could have listened to A longer than I did, instead I cut the conversation off to get the class ready for swimming.
- I could have encouraged J to learn the lesson that if you don't hold the lego bucket with 2 hands all of its contents will fall out. Instead I helped him carry it and 'fixed' the problem for him.
- I could have read to the children outside while they were sitting having a snack instead of making them pack up get their bags and then coming inside to listen to a story.
- I should have put the paints outside today but I got caught up with too many things and lost track of time.
- We were journal writing today and I didn't hear all of their stories instead I said "you've written your own story so you can put your journal away now".

I constantly reflect on my actions and challenge myself everyday to make tomorrow a better day.

* When I fail and then reflect, I learn how to try harder, act smarter and change my actions and behavior.
Recently I saw a wonderful video from Story Workshop that had some great ideas for provocations. I posted the videos here in a playlist. I was inspired by this video and the very next day set up a similar provocation in my art area.

It looks inviting right, it looks like something you might want to try and explore? It looks picture perfect and something that should provoke amazing art work - right? WRONG.

I failed in this provocation. Not in the way you might think - In my mind I constantly struggle with teacher led learning engagements and child led learning engagements. The details of this ongoing struggle can be saved for another post another day. (You can find the start of my thinking here). The provocation looked great and the children who engaged with this activity would probably say it was enjoyable.  I pride myself in having a learning environment where children are given enough uninterrupted time, and have the autonomy and agency to create, imagine and self-regulate their own learning. This is what I came back to an hour later.

Here is where I think I failed.
* I didn't support or scaffold children's learning
* I didn't give them any expectations
* I didn't sit with them and facilitate learning
* I basically left them to it.

Part of me wonders had I sat there and explored with and alongside the children would they have stayed focussed for longer? Should I have shown them how to draw the flower? How can I make this more meaningful for them. These are questions I have running through my head EVERY day. Im learning though that there is a big difference between saying I have FAILED the children, and instead starting to rephrase my learning.

I haven't failed, I've had lots of opportunities to learn from my experiences.

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