I am taking a stab at blogging. This May 1st, 2014 entry is my inaugural effort. Hold on…
One of the greatest gifts I can give my three boys is to NOT need me. I want them to learn everyday to trust themselves with their decisions, to make good choices based on what they have learned, to accept the consequences of those choices, good or bad. If they succeed, I want them to know what they did right and now refine it and move on to another challenge. If they fail, and they will, AND I will let them, I want them to understand what they did wrong. Then I want them to correct it and come back even stronger, learning from the error and moving forward. All of this with the confidence that good or bad, win or lose, succeed or fail, mom and dad love them and will be there to support them regardless. It is an ideal that enters many phases of my life.
I developed this philosophy from coaching football, softball, and volleyball. I wanted my players to know what to do if I was gone. I still remember practicing all week for a game. My coaches and I had the game plan and prepared the players as best we could. I can still see them getting off the bus, getting ready, stretching, going through pregame drills, and then walking over for that final pep talk. One football game we didn’t call an offensive play for three series. We had the plays pre called on our quarterback’s arm. He started at #1 and worked down. We scored before he got to #7 where he was supposed to look to us for the call. They were so excited. THEY were doing it because we had prepared them properly. I want my classroom students in the same mind set.
I see this transferring to my students in the classroom. I want to be able to teach them so later on, when I am not there to guide, they have the knowledge to acquire the means to succeed, be it an interview, paper, conflict, etc. I love project-based learning with real-life applications. It is the way I would want to learn in today’s world. Every time I design a new lesson, I step back and ask as a Junior or Senior in my class would, “How am I going to use this later in life?” I refine the lesson until I know it will help prepare them for life and the curves it will throw at them, such lessons as Mock Interview panels in Speech class with classmates firing questions, research projects that pick a problem in the world today and solve it with real-world solutions, and group projects that bring new water fountains into the school for all to use and benefit. Kids love a good challenge and enjoy competition. And win or fail, there is a lesson to be learned.
And add in today’s lightning fast gains in technology, and it is a rollercoaster ride with more adrenaline then most can handle. I see students using Google as if it were breathing. It is just something they do, a part of their lives here to stay. They can research in their sleep using Google Alerts inside Scholar for credible sources. These are filtered right into their email boxes for them to read the next day. Working inside GDrive they can work with others to help help organize and proofread their work. Citing sources has never been easier with Easybib, now an app built right inside GDrive. The Works Cited page appears at the bottom and updates automatically. And that is not even the really neat stuff!
In answer to the students who complain about writing… well… whine no more with the apps available to cure that. Siri and Dragon Dictation have cured it. My students can talk into their phones using Dragon Dictation. It converts speech to text at almost 98% accuracy. Then it is a simple email to Gmail, cut and paste into GDrive, and the proofreading and revision starts. It is not working harder… it is working smarter. And it is here and here to stay. This is a life skill that can be used with spreadsheets, presentations, papers, projects, pretty much anything. A life skill they can use forever.
So when I am approached by a parent who disagrees with all of the technology I use or that I will allow students to fail because they did not put forth the effort needed to succeed, I do not take offense. I try to explain to the parent why I do what I do. Hopefully, he/she is willing to listen and understand, not necessarily agree with my ideas. I have come in contact with parents who fear ‘not being needed’, and it scares them. I understand that. I have also come into contact with a lot of parents who just cannot seem to let their child fail. They will go to extreme measures to see that success is achieved for the child. I feel sorry for them, both the child and the parents. Some of my greatest successes have come from my worst failures… and I recovered and prepared harder than ever and saw to it I did not repeat the mistake. My best teachers and coaches and my parents let me make mistakes, let me fail. Former students have contacted me re-enforcing this practice and thanking me, helping me understand I am on the right track. I feel confident in my direction and hope to continue to improve it. And I know I will make a mistake or two along the way.
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone fails. Learning to deal with it, accept responsibility for it, and responding to it is the key. I am not perfect nor are my children or students.
And that is okay just as failure is.