Be Brave Enough to Suck at Something New!
This week's blog is all about learning something new. This is something I started doing when I first started teaching. I knew my first year of teaching that I was not going to keep doing the same lessons every year. One of my semesters in student teaching, I had a master teacher who knew exactly what they were teaching on each day from year to year. They had a filing cabinet full of lesson folders sorted by week and day. I still remember listening to a family member who had been teaching for over 30 years tell me she had all 180 days planned out every year and they had never changed. I did not want to be that teacher.
Over the years., I have taken on a personal project with my students to learn something new. One year is was to learn how to use a microcontroller and LED lights to light up my LEGO sets. Another year is was learning how to edit videos. This has been going on for over 15 years. It's fun to challenge myself to learn something new. I share with my students the experiences I have had because I said "Yes" to something even though I didn't really know how to do it. If you remember from my last blog, it is important to take a leap of faith even though you may not know how or where you will land.
A recent example shows how exciting it can be to be brave enough to suck at something new. Several years ago, I don't know exactly, Dry Creek was going to be starting RTI Interventions. We watched the videos about RTI and even had Mattos come and speak to the teachers about how important it was. The whole time I was learning about RTI and the tiered support, I was thinking how was this going to work in middle school. How could we keep track of the students and let them know where they needed to go each week. I figured a spreadsheet would be good, and I have used it in the past to track students from one class to another. I told my admin that I would figure out a way to track students during their RTI time and tell them each week where they needed to go. The reality was, I had no idea how to do this. Figuring out a spreadsheet that teachers could use to place students in an intervention time and email the students each week became my personal project that summer.
People ask me all the time, "How do you know how to do all this stuff?". The quickest answer is that I am self-taught. I scour YouTube and the Internet to find resources that I can use. For the RTI spreadsheet it started with a free online class on formulas to build dashboards. Even though it was based on a business, I knew I could use some of this on the RTI spreadsheet. As I learned these new formulas, I tested them on a practice sheet. The fist 40 versions were horrible disasters. The first time I tried emailing a mock class, I ended up sending myself 85 emails. Formulas broke or would give the wrong information. It was not looking good. But then I remembered that I am still learning. I went back to the Internet, watched a few more videos, and things started coming together. I am constantly learning new ways to improve my work, and I actually look forward to the failures that inevitably come. It means I'm learning.
So just remember that it is OK to suck at something new. Your students will learn more when you show them it's ok to make errors when you are starting out. Try little changes and see what happens.
Enjoy November and the upcoming Fall Break! It is a time for thanks. I am thankful for all the teachers in Dry Creek who are brave enough to suck at something new!
It's October and the weather has finally turned! I personally love the cooler weather. Making a fire in the fireplace, the electric blanket and a nice hot cup of coffee are what make this time of the year special for me.
With the new season, I decided to start something new for DCTA. I am starting a blog. As we build this blog, if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. This will be a place for teachers to share stories, advice or just help each other feel better. This is a tough time, and we are stronger together.
For this inaugural blog I wanted to write about taking a leap of faith without knowing how I was going to land. It's about taking risks and stepping beyond our limits to reach a goal on the other side.
Let me start by saying I have never written a blog before. Writing in general scares me. I think my fear of writing goes all the way back to middle and high school. (I won't spare you with how long ago that was!) I will be the first to admit that I have terrible handwriting. Having poor penmanship definitely hurt my chances when it came to writing. As I grew up through college, word processing and home computers were coming out, and I jumped at the chance. My parents bought me a Mac Plus for college and I still remember the first time a professor allowed me to type my report. It was so freeing. I still struggled with writing, but the handwriting was no longer a barrier.
Throughout college and the first few years of teaching, I did not take any risks or tried anything new. If I didn't know how to do it, I steered clear. I was going through the motions and teaching the lessons given to me. For many years I was happy following along and teaching my students. It was a bumpy ride for sure, but I never stepped beyond the line to take that leap of faith. Then Silverado opened up and I was debating about moving up to middle school.
Back in the 1998-1999 school year, I was teaching a 4/5 combo class at Heritage Oak. Several of my friends applied to teach at the new middle school opening up the next year. This was a difficult choice! As an elementary teacher, the thought of moving to a brand new school, let alone the scary middle school age, was stressful. I spent many afternoons writing out a Positive/Negative Chart with reasons why or why not to move to middle school. It was time to take a leap of faith. I had absolutely no experience in middle school. My whole teaching career I had taught in grades TK through 5th. The idea that I could teach middle school was scary. Then came the self-doubt. "Those middle school kids will be horrible", "I could never teach kids that age", "How many students would I be teaching", and the statements just kept coming. Just as I was about to delete the email to Clark Redfield (The Assistant Superintendent at the time), I was asked to help set up Science Night at Antelope Crossing. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to "test the waters". Could I really enjoy middle school? The answer would be YES!
I had such a great time interacting with middle school students and seeing the projects they were presenting that evening. I left telling myself that it would be worth the risk! For someone who didn't step past the line to see what was out there, this was the moment. I have not once regretted making the decision to move to middle school. Looking back over the past 20 years, it was worth stepping off the edge and trying something that I had no idea how it was going to end.
When people ask me about taking a leap of faith, taking that chance or trying something new, I always refer to the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". There is one scene towards the end where Indiana Jones has to pass through several traps to reach the Holy Grail. One of them is a leap of faith. He has to cross a giant cavern to reach the entrance. That is like a lot of us. Sometimes we are faced with a giant cavern between us and our goal. Be like Dr. Jones and just take the leap. It may not always land the way to want, but that is what makes it an adventure. In my next blog I will be writing about what it means to have an adventure in education.
Do you have a story you would like to share? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your idea. You could be the next features blogger for DCTA.