Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sometimes You Fail

at 8:54 PM
Sometimes you fail. And it hurts. Oh, how it hurts. Ultimately, you get over it and move on. Ideally, you learn from the mistake. Hopefully, it doesn't affect the rest of the world too badly. But, yes... we fail.

The first year is always a struggle. It's assumed. Throw BTSA on top of it, and it's assured that you will spend many-a-day feeling like something is not right. I don't just mean the normal "something is not right" feeling you get when you know you messed up, but the feeling Miss Clavel has in Madelina when she wakes up in the middle of the night worried. The first year, that's almost a constant in your life.

But then you get comfortable. You've decided on your pet peeves, your must-haves, and refined your procedures. You spent the entire summer attending trainings and conferences to learn new strategies to infuse into your curriculum. You spend hours planning and re-planning your entire first quarter curriculum. As the second year draws nearer, you think you're prepared for anything, especially after last year's crop of students.

And then school starts.

They're angels. They're innocent and sweet, comparatively. They're fun and energetic. Yet quiet and obedient.
You think you're about to have the best year yet.

Until the day of the first homework assignment.

First class. You've reminded students verbally every day, as well as had them write it in their agendas. You know they wrote it down once a day for the past three days, because you stamp their agendas daily. You stand by the door and remind students that they need to put it in the in-box before the bell rings.
The bell rings.
There are five papers in the box.
You pick them up. Two are in pencil - you send them back to be redone. Two more are incomplete. Redo.


One student correctly turned in their homework assignment, out of 31 students.

You are now shaking with frustration. You're livid. Yet, you remember that it's not a direct reflection on you. You remind yourself that they didn't do it on purpose to hurt you. Making a conscious effort to calm down before talking, you try to remember that it's going to be alright.

After a few deep breaths, you are able to talk. "One. One person did their homework correctly." That's all you say. Then you walk to the computer and pull open the automated telephone system used to call home. The computer screen is visible on the projector, and every student watches as you send home 30 phone messages. "Your child failed to turn in a required homework assignment."

The class is dead silent the rest of the period.

It was harsh, yes, but you remind yourself it was necessary. They need to know that you are true to your word. You remind them that latework is accepted - at 70%.

Fast forward two days. The second assignment is due. Your lesson plan is to correct these in class.
While many more students have their assignment this time, the majority are incomplete. Instead of relishing the fact that more students remembered their work, you're frustrated that the lesson plan is ruined.

You react poorly.

It's important to be aware of your mistakes. This time, knowing you handled the situation poorly ends in doing something completely different in all classes.

Finally one works!
Wait. That's the one where I did what I had said I would when talking about procedures.
Oh, right. Follow your own procedures. Do what you say you will. That's Teaching 101.

And I failed.

On top of that, as I graded their work I realized the parts they didn't finish were parts I didn't explain the instructions on. Now, yes, maybe it's not unreasonable to expect an 8th grader to read the directions and follow them... but, still.

I failed.

I didn't just fail. I failed my students.

Not only did I expect them to complete work I had not properly taught, I expected them to understand that I changed the procedure for this assignment without telling them. I wasn't clear in my expectations, and then I punished them for it with my displeasure.

The AVID teacher said he could tell something was wrong because so many students looked disappointed that day.

Our students care so deeply about their teachers' opinions. I'm afraid I've lost the rapport I've been working on. Since I had a training today and my students had a sub, I'm also slightly worried they'll think I abandoned them.

I know it's irrational - but so are they.

I know it's not their fault. It's mine.

I've discussed and reflected with multiple mentor-figures within the past two days, and I've created a plan to go forward with.

But it still doesn't fix that broken-heart-feeling of knowing I messed up.

But it'll be ok.

All Groan Up reminds us that now is the time to fail, and fail hard. It's the time to learn from those failures, too.

Iambeggingmymothernottoreadthisblog reminds us that we all have demons. Demons that, in your 20-somethings, come from unexpected places.

 Sometimes you fail. But you're not alone. We all do it. 

Learn from it. Move on. Fail forward.


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