Last week I wrote about failing vs failure. I knew at the beginning of this week that I would be writing about the topic again, through a new lens: permission to fail.
One of my favorite lines from this past week came from an administrator who said, “I love it! I get absolutely giddy when I see teachers failing at this [EL Education] curriculum.”
You might be asking yourself, “Are you kidding? Why would an administrator say that?” Let me provide some context: after a team of teachers left a PLC (Professional Learning Community) meeting earlier this week, administrators and coaches debriefed and came to the conclusion that the teachers on this team are so focused on doing things perfectly, that they are afraid to make any mistakes. Makes perfect sense. Failure (failing) sucks.
More context: the administrator went on to say, “I’d much rather see teachers try and make mistakes, than not try at all, or try to cover up their mistakes.” He truly saw their failings as a reason for celebration. The takeaway? Go ahead and make those mistakes – you and your students (employees/children/athletes/coworkers…) will be better for it. Even better: let those students (employees/children/athletes/coworkers…) see your mistakes and how you handle them – with a giggle and a determination to do better. What a way to face adversity!!! And what great a environment to work in: an environment where there is permission to fail.
This was (understandably) a tough sell for teacher teams. Of course they want to teach a lesson without making mistakes. Of course it is uncomfortable to try something and be less-than-stellar at it. But if our goal is to remain comfortable, are we running the risk of not growing?
I’ve written extensively about our journey in the Fort Madison Community School District with the EL Education Curriculum. As with any high quality curriculum, implementation is tough. Super tough. Is the EL Education Curriculum perfect? Nope… but it’s pretty darn close! 😉 If it were perfect, every school district, everywhere would have it. The perfect curriculum doesn’t exist. But the perfect formula for creating optimal success with a curriculum does exist: High quality teaching + high quality curriculum = high levels of learning for all students.
I said it a few weeks ago, I’ll say it again today, and I’ll very likely say it many times in the future: We will not see significant gains until we choose to embrace the curriculum that we have. Whether it be the EL Education Curriculum or a different high quality curriculum, the significant gains simply won’t be there without buy-in. Until we are willing to jump in and do the incredibly tough work, until we are willing to make mistakes, and until we are willing to engage in collaboration and professional discourse, our students will continue to make minimal to dismal gains.
I began writing this post earlier this week. Since that first draft, I was involved in several conversations in which administrative decisions were called into question (not an unusual occurrence), and I began to rethink my celebration of the situation I described above. IF some people read this (my readership remains low, so low risk here!), would they judge me and completely disagree with me? Maybe I have a skewed perception of the administrator I wrote about, or about administration in general? Maybe I need to write about an entirely different topic? I was starting to doubt my perceptions, and was worrying about judgement from others. And then I remembered a quote that my friend and colleague, Clint, sent my way. I don’t know the origin of the quote, but it stops me in my tracks every time I read it:
Then I read George Couros‘s weekly email, which became just the reminder that I needed to stick with the original topic. His email brought the clarity of purpose that I needed. My writing is a reflection of my learning journey, and my experiences. It doesn’t make what I write “right” or “wrong.” It is simply my experience, and my attempt to capture what I’ve learned. It assists me in finding the clarity that I continue to seek.
Putting yourself out there for others to see/read/hear takes a giant leap of faith. It is a risk because you are opening yourself up to criticism (I’m quite certain that there are many who hold a completely different view of curriculum, vulnerability, administration/leadership than I do). If you take on a leadership position, if you stand by your beliefs, if you put yourself out there for others, you are taking on the risk of criticism. If you give yourself permission to fail, the risk is worth it.
Despite the above-mentioned risk, I’m choosing to stay true to the original intent of this blog: it is a reflection of my learning. On January 1, 2021, I wrote the following as a summary of my goals for this blog:
- Document my learning journey as a teacher, coach, and student
- Improve my writing craft through reflection
- Act as a producer rather than a consumer
- Push my thinking
- Connect with others
One year and one month later, my intentions remain the same. My high anxiety levels before finally pushing the “Publish” button each week remain the same. But the rewards I have reaped in engaging in this reflection also remain high, so the journey continues.
Not to mention that if I quit writing, I would miss out on my Sunday morning, “A Dog and a Blog” time with Bradshaw, the Kruse family dog. 🙂