Accepting Failure

Post date: Aug 18, 2014 10:52:56 PM

I failed today.

Yep, it happens to me too. I had my first Interactive Presentation with my 8th graders today. I made way too many assumptions (about both them and myself) that ended up making things rather ugly. The lecture was way too long with just way too much jammed into it.

I thought I had it all down. Yes, I was a few slides over my usual 20 (invariably 20 slides takes a period for me it seems) but I had a great 3 part structure, plenty of videos and two very solid Brain Snacks built in. But man, I had way too much text on the screen. The truth is, it wasn't for them - it was for me. I haven't taught this stuff in 10 years and I didn't want to miss anything. I assumed as 8th graders they'd know by now how to take notes without trying to copy every word on the screen. That was my mistake. I should have started much slower and lighter.

Ultimately, I jammed everything in (from Columbus to Plymouth in 45 minutes!) but at the expense of any real understanding, and more importantly, any real interest from the kids. It was our first lecture and it was long and boring. That means the next one I'll have to work twice are hard to make it engaging. I have to break their preconceptions about what a lecture looks like with me now. Ugh.

So, at the end of the period I had a choice. Jam the thing in again or make some quick adjustments. I chose the latter. I eliminated the entire second part of the lesson (John Locke will pop up somewhere again right?) and just kept it as a clear story of exploration and settlement. It went roughly a million times better (unfortunately the kids in my second period already know how great my lectures can be since they all had me last year - that isn't true of my first class where I bombed!) and showed me what the lecture should have been from the start.

Locke and the enlightenment thinking should not have been in there to begin with. I messed up by trying to fit every bit of history into the story. The story is what is important in the lecture. The history can come later through labs and readings. This is a lesson I've learned a dozen or so times in my career I just reverted back to the old crutch of jamming it all in to hope something stuck. I don't feel defeated - just kind of bummed for my kids to have had to experience my failure. I'll get them back, I learned from the failure.

I just wish I wasn't going to fail first with them every time! Maybe I'll put them on a one day delay so I fail with the kids who already know me... it's a thought.

Anyway, I failed. The world is still turning. Kids will still show up tomorrow. Learning will still happen. And I won't make the same mistake again (for at least a couple months) so it wasn't such a bad thing after all.

Failing every now and then gets my full recommendation.

*On a side note, I was discussing failure with my elective class this morning in a completely unrelated lesson. I told them that if they never fail it means they aren't pushing themselves hard enough. Well, good news self, you found your limit on this one! I pushed too far, I dialed it back and found the sweet spot. Good deal.