I have always wanted my students to understand that it's okay to take a risk. You might fail. You might succeed. Either way, you will have tried something new. This year I wanted to focus on what happens if you take a risk and fail. I wanted to build a classroom environment about it. While I didn't get the posters up that I wanted, we talk about what happens whenever I make a mistake in class, either in what I say or write on the board. (It happens a lot more than I would like!) We talk about how it's okay to make mistakes.
Many of my peers who participate in our weekly district Twitter chat (#SVTChat) know my love of the movie Zootopia. It was in the movie that I found my class theme song, "Try Everything". One of my class jobs is to decide if we play the song (and sometimes the video) each morning. I have found that so far they have wanted to play it each day, unless I have to say no for various reasons. Most of them are singing along while they prepare for the day's activities. We sang it for the music teacher the other day. I was amazed with how energetically they sang the sang, knowing almost every word by heart. (The music teacher was very impressed as well!)
One of the reasons this song resonated with me was the lines, "I will keep on making those new mistakes, I'll keep on making them everyday." We tell our students this all the time, but how much really gets through. Here was a pop song that gets stuck in their heads with the words I wanted them to truly believe. It's ok to make mistakes and fail, because you are going to make them anyway. You might as well get up and try again.
The day I realized that the message was getting through was when I had an observer in my class. She is a candidate for a teaching program trying to get many hours of classroom observation in as she can. I was doing a tech lesson to not only my current students, but three other classes as part of our MakerMonday rotation. In the three other classes, there are some students who have had me before (and should be more tech savvy) and many who have not. I thought the same tech lesson for three out of the four classes, one of them being my own class. When I teach "tech", it is showing the students a new program that they can use in their academic subjects. This week's lesson was to create a poster for our Candy Bar Election. (An awesome activity we do every four years for the whole school with the upper grade students campaigning for their favorite bar!) We discussed as groups how they could apply the lesson to a language arts topic (Wanted posters for a character!) or Science (Elements, anyone?!).
After sitting in on three of the classes, my observer and I talked a little about what she saw. I explained why I did a few things and why I step back and let the students figure out others on their own. The first thing she shared was how different my current students were than the rest of the classes. Since I gave the same lesson to all of them and my current class is made up of pretty typical (for my school anyway) students, I needed more information from her. Her response, "they are much more confident in what they are doing. They ask each other for help, they share when they discover something new, and aren't afraid to just TRY!" It was exactly what I needed someone to tell me. My students were getting the message! They were willing to take risks and make mistakes. There was no giving up just because it was hard or they got it wrong.
I don't know if it is the daily reminder through a catchy song, or the constant reminder by me and the paraprofessional in my room, but the message has gotten stuck. They are willing to "try everything". I couldn't have been more proud!
What I learned:
- "Try Everything" is an awesome song with an amazing message! (Listen to it, it's catchy!)
- When you tell students, repeatedly, that mistakes are okay, they WILL fail, and it's all OKAY, they are willing to take a lot more risks.
- Sometimes having an outsider in your classroom can help you to see things in a whole perspective.
Update: Having had my students blog about "Try Everything", many of them are getting the message of not giving up. I wanted to share two that really stood out. Thanks for reading, and they would love your comments as well.http://kaileyforeveradancer.blogspot.com/
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching