This is in response to the #DCSDblogs challenge prompt on sharing mistakes. (Note: While I’m not associated with the Davenport School District, I’m grateful for the warm invitation to participate in their blogging challenge, which is a wonderful initiative to encourage teacher blogging)!
We talk and share and write about giving students a voice and choice. To encourage them to own their learning process and make thoughtful, personal decisions along the way.
But after all the choices we give them, what happens when they don’t choose what’s best for them?
Like when you allow them to choose the classroom layout — and they choose rows, the most collaboration-unfriendly arrangement?
Or when you ask them for input on classroom management and rules — and they clamor to institute a stickers/candy/otherwise extrinsic-reward system?
Or when you turn time over to them to decide what kind of literacy word work task they will pursue — and they choose the option you know is least valuable to them right now?
In the past, when I encountered each of these, my response was to withdraw, clamp down control, or persuade.
But as I’ve learned from amazing teachers in my PLN (like Taryn BondClegg’s example when she encountered the exact experience of kids picking rows!), these, too, are precious learning opportunities. If we could just set aside our fears of falling behind or causing inconvenience, we might find a veritable goldmine of growth mindset/#FailForward/metacognition learning moments.
In the face of possible failure, if our response is to always snatch away the reins, our students will never have to opportunity to investigate and discover for themselves why and how these processes work. That means stepping aside and honoring their choices, no matter how painful it might be.
Of course, sometimes their failures have more to do with our own failure — for instance, in the literacy example, we might not have done enough scaffolding to teach stamina, metacognition, or other tools to empower students to take informed action (see, “That Time I Failed at Inquiry“). In these instances, we can and should be constantly making adjustments in our approach as the teacher. But even when we’ve made mistakes, we should seize the opportunities to model our learning process!
In this way, the only real failure is when we try to mask it, hide it, or preempt it with control. Instead, let’s bring it into the light. Bring it into the learning.
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto