Fearless Teaching

I have realized over the years that I am a very different kind of teacher. Perhaps because I am a science teacher and we are all a little strange. Many of my colleagues are much more rigid in their practices. This is not at all a bad thing. My colleagues are amazing teachers. They are very organized in every aspect of their teaching. They know exactly what every day holds, have very consistent rules and classroom management, and very clear and concise expectations.

All of these things are key to being an excellent teacher. All of these things work so well for them. They have classrooms that are well oiled machines and every day is full of meaningful learning. But I have noticed that many of them are scared to try new things. I totally get it!! Why fix something that isn’t broken?? Maybe the correct answer is don’t. Maybe these teachers will never need to change anything. I’m a little different.

I don’t know if I get bored easily or if I just always feel like I could do better and never really feel like I have perfected anything but I am always trying new things. I noticed how different I was when our school went 1:1 two years ago. While there were several hiccups in the beginning that were pretty annoying many teachers still (two full school years later) are pushing back and not wanting to use the 1:1 resource.

This post is NOT about whether or not technology is good or bad or how we should use it. I believe that answer is different for every subject and every teacher. However, I know that my fearless nature has made my life a million times easier. It only takes being OK with failing in front of the students. Just this one thing (failure) has really transformed the learning environment in my classroom.

One thing I always tell my students is that failure is the best way to really learn. You HAVE to be able to fail in order to learn the correct way. Many things in science are a process and just memorizing terms is not enough to really learn the critical thinking skills necessary to be successful. Failure is a big part of any scientist’s career.

The first year we implemented the 1:1 technology I decided I was going to learn everything I could so I could decide what works and what doesn’t. We were trained on the learning management system a few days before the school year started and didn’t have a lot of time to learn all the details before the year started. That means I had to try things with my students as the school year progressed. I was nervous. I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of the students but I also wanted to learn the system.

That is when I realized I needed to practice what I preach to the students. At the beginning of the year I explained that this new system was as new to me as it was to them and we were going to go on an adventure. And so we did. I have tried so many different things the last two years and failed in front of the students so much that I came to realize the more I “fail” the more willing they are to fail. The more I ask for their feedback when I try something new, the more willing they are to ask for my feedback when they are trying something new.

As a result I am making my classroom environment a lot more tailored to student-centered science learning. I still have a strong classroom management backbone, clear and concise expectations, and rules and procedures. I could not function without that. But I have now transitioned into an environment where students trust me more and are willing to fail to learn. It may seem like chaos to some but it is organized and meaningful chaos and it is working for us!