The Truth About Teaching New Things

So here is the truth about trying new things while teaching. Every time you try something new one of five things can happen:

1. It goes perfectly (or nearly) and you’ve struck gold! (This is so unbelievably rare so rejoice!)

2. You try it a few times before it works

3. You try it a few times and then give up

4. You do it over and over again until you make it work (this rarely happens but sometimes, if you’re stubborn like me, it works… eventually!)

5. It fails. It fails miserably. Often in the middle of the activity and you wish you could pretend that you never even started. Sometimes you even try to awkwardly change what you are doing in the middle, usually only to fail even harder… Silent reading time?

So why do we never talk about this? We so often share our success (especially in the blogging world!) but what about those failures? They are equally important to our learning and growth as teachers. They are also important moments for our students to see us as human. I say we start sharing our failures as well as our strengths. Let’s laugh about them. Let’s learn from them together. Let’s be a little more human for each other.

This year I have tried a lot of new things and while some of them have been great, some have definitely failed miserably.

During my French centres, I had a lot of successes and I loved being able to spend time with small groups looking through books and practicing oral language. But then I had them hand in one of the assignments from a station. It was an “About Me” poster (but all in French), and I got a lot of nicely coloured posters. Unfortunately about half of them were lacking in the French part of the poster and a few more of them took weeks if not months to track down. Lesson learned! This was not an individual activity and required a LOT more scaffolding then they got.

I have a new math assessment that I will talk about in a later post, because in itself it is great! It involves four leveled questions and it is a great snapshot into what they are doing. So naturally after I had spent a good two hours creating these assessments with a coworker I was excited to see how the kids would do. I left it with my substitute teacher while at a workshop last week and collected them to mark at home. You know what helps with math word problems? If the pictures you need to solve the problem are on the sheet… Imagine that hey? I must say I got some very creative answers that I was impressed with! But overall it wasn’t anything I could mark, and the kids were less than happy when I made them redo it with the real questions the next day. Whoops!

And finally, my advisory activities… This has been one of my favourite things about middle school and I’ve tried new things with every class. I was most excited for my goal setting this January. I had the duotangs all ready to go, sticky notes for their weekly goals, the SMART Goals board made up, a lesson plan to introduce it… What could go wrong? Oh right! It’s middle school. I spent a whole block on the goals and what a SMART goal is and was feeling so proud of myself. And then I read the weekly goals… “My goal is to get my haircut,” “My goal is to make a better goal next week,” “My goal is to not set a goal”… Greeeaatttt… Well that’s what I get for thinking it was going to be an easy process! (In all honesty, our goal setting has got much better and this is worth doing!)

What are your lesson failures?


One thought on “The Truth About Teaching New Things

  1. I’ve been through a lot of trial and error with my classes at OSU. I’m thankful that after each term, I get a lot of feedback from students and can change the structure of the course from term to term. I imagine when you are testing something out within the context of the year, it can be quite scary. However, I am all for trying new things because you will never know what works, what doesn’t, and how to change if you never try. Plus, I think the students appreciate it as well.

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