Whoosh! Like that it’s the end of another school year. The year goes by fast but the days and weeks sometimes go slowly. We’re now in the midst of planning end-of-year activities and closing up our classrooms.
It’s almost time to refresh and renew with summer break. . .Ahhh. . .can you imagine it?
Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it.
Before we move into our breaks or move forward another week, as good teachers we need to learn how to learn from the mistakes and missteps we made along the way. We’re constantly encouraging our students to learn from their mistakes—we have to be willing as well. Learning from our mistakes builds our confidence as teachers, and as human beings.
If you keep repeating the same choices (and habits) you’ve made year after year, you’re going to keep getting the same results. For example, year after year I would make the mistake of planning after school. I was able to plan then, but I knew deep down I didn’t do my best planning after a day in the classroom.
So my plans suffered. So, this year, I’ve planned a few weeks in advance on my off days, like an in-service day, a break, or any long weekend. I found the time and made it work. You can make mistakes work for you, too. Try this simple 2-step process to not only fix your mistakes but grow yourself, year after year.
Step 1. Identify Your Mistakes. The simple way to determine if something was a mistake or not is asking yourself, “Did all or most your students master a standard or skill?” If not, it wasn’t successful. Or if you are evaluating a personal habit, ask “Did staying late every week help me plan better?” In my case, “No” is the clear answer. The question helped me realize that my lesson plans weren’t as fun or as thorough. I really enjoy planning, but I wasn’t enjoying the results of my planning, not at the end of a school day. I needed to make a course correction.
What are the mistakes you’ve made this past year that point you toward a change?
Step 2. Identify Cause. Now, think about the mistake itself. When we use teacher strategies, curriculum materials, or plan our lessons, there are usually one of three reasons they fail. The least likely (and first cause) is we’re new, still learning, and need to practice. Overcoming that simply takes time and continued learning.
The second reason involves the diversity of our students and their needs. Remember that most curriculum materials are designed by professionals that haven’t been in the classroom for decades, or were never classroom teachers to begin with. Not to discredit textbook materials in general, but we have to learn to adapt them to any particular set of students we have. The curriculum is never how we teach. It can only be the materials we use to teach. Failing to adapt our materials to our students is pretty common in my experience.
The third common cause of classroom mistakes is simple fatigue. At the end of our day, we are way past making good decisions. Our brains want to make the easiest choice, not the right choice. So planning ahead is essential for success. Planning ahead is potentially the easiest way to create learning from our mistakes. Next week, I’ll share with you a self-reflection tool that’ll lead you to huge growth and mistake success. Growing from your mistakes (instead of allowing yourself to repeat them) will lead you to a beautiful new school year.
So as you are contemplating and dreaming during your upcoming break—take a moment to envision to dream of a beautiful school year next academic term. Imagine your classroom free of previous mistakes, infused with the mindset of learning and growing, year after year, with decreasing frustration and worry.
You can do that. You can make that happen.