Thursday, February 13, 2014

Brag about your mistakes

At the beginning of this month, I traveled to Austin, Texas to present at the TCEA conference. It was a fantastic experience; I enjoyed meeting new people and sharing some of the things I'm doing and the tools that have helped me be a more effective teacher.

Image: Wikimedia Commons
But it wasn't all smooth sailing. At my session on Google Apps Scripts, things didn't go at all as I planned. I wanted to demonstrate gClassFolders, and how I use it. I had all the participants submit their information through a Google form, then I used the script to create a class and share some documents.

Well, that was the plan. Things quickly fell apart when the script didn't work as I'd expected. I was unable to create the class, or to use doctopus to distribute the documents that I'd spent several hours preparing. I was still able to demonstrate the principles of how it works, but not in the way I wanted. After the session, I thought to myself, "Okay, lesson learned. Next time, be better prepared. Test the script exhaustively. Leave nothing to chance." I fixed the issue with the script after the session was over, and I was then able to distribute copies of the documents to each of the participants.

After almost two weeks, I've revised my opinion. Even though things didn't work out how I'd envisioned, it was still good. In fact, for some of the participants, it was more than good. I've had some teachers get in touch to thank me, and to follow up on how they're applying what they've learned.

Which brings me a great deal of comfort. I openly admitted during the session that it wasn't what I'd planned, but now I can see that the technical glitches didn't take away from the learning. So I'm celebrating that my session proved effective, even though it wasn't optimal. And that's an important lesson for me.

Many educators I know are a lot like me: we have high standards, and we do what we do not because it's a job, but because it's a passion. I truly care about learning, whether my own, fellow teachers, or (and perhaps most importantly) the learning that my students do. Finding out that people have learned from me, despite the obstacles, rates among the highest praise I can get as a teacher.

Finally, I should explain why I believe it was important for me to share this story. It's not that I'm proud of how fantastic everything is. I know that I can do better, and I will continue to strive for better. That's true of my professional career, and of my personal life. It's not that the feedback I've gotten has touched my heart (although it has). I'm sharing this story of my mistakes, my difficulties, and the challenges I face because there's a lesson here for me. Be genuine. Make mistakes. Take risks.

Be proud of your accomplishments, and be proud of your mistakes. Without risk, there's no reward, and without failure, success wouldn't be as sweet.