Monday, October 20, 2014

The Dung Ball - Progress Through Failure

This weekend I had the opportunity to speak with teachers in Frederick Maryland and Manchester Connecticut.  I love doing these talks. It's an incredible rush to know that because of your message a teacher is ready to put him or herself out there and try something new in the classroom. Maybe it's finding an alternative to a worksheet they've used for ten years, or creating a video so that students can access the material at home. 
The topic of failure is often preached at our events, and there are fantastic examples of people who have taken a risk and it hasn't worked out.  However, that doesn't make it any easier. Anytime I fail I get incredibly nervous and fear what others may think.  So much so that I will begin thinking of ways to frame the mistake so that it lessens the blow.   What I've began doing, however, is start with the cold hard truth. I made a mistake. This didn't work. In other words, I failed. 
When I was in the classroom, I had times where my test scores were lower than they were supposed to be.  I've forgotten critical deadlines that led to missed opportunities. I've empowered students to publish online, only later discovering that what they posted was very inappropriate and potentially damaging to the school's reputation. 
I now believe that those failures helped me discover who I am. Every time a mistake happens, we are forced to look in the mirror and realize that we're not as good as we would like to be. Over time, we begin amassing a huge collection of mistakes, or as I call it, a dung ball.  This ball of "*@*@" is who we are, and it motivates us to be better next time; to continue searching for the correct path forward. 
Don't try to hide your dung ball. Own it. It's who you are. You will be surprised how relieving it is to know that even the worst about us is out in the open. There's something to be said about not giving others the chance to hold something against you. Because you're so up front with pointing out your failures it can no longer sit in the back of your mind and keep you for taking the next big risk. 
I hope to see you at the next EdTechTeam Summit featuring Google Apps for Education in your area. 

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