My blog is one that often focuses on the positive experiences in my classroom but today’s post reflects on an activity that didn’t work out as planned.

In our combined HSP 3U classes, Dan and I try to provide our students with multiple opportunities to connect and collaborate and this past Thursday was an attempt at a new collaborative activity. We wanted to have small group discussions between classes via Google Hangout. An awesome idea in theory, but not so in practicality. We had some issues with the Internet, when they got a connection, it was hard for the students to hear each other, and it took a long time to get organized. Some decent conversations took place, but many of my students didn’t feel this activity was as effective as the threaded written conversations we have had in Google Classroom with Dan’s class.

However, the positive that emerged from this was:
– it was an authentic experience for them in seeing their teacher have something not work out
– it opened the door for a teachable moment where we talked about taking a risk especially if we think it might not work out (I had expressed to my students that I was concerned with bandwidth from the multiple Google Hangouts)
– I took responsibility for the fact that the activity didn’t work out as well as anticipated (which I don’t think happens enough by adults in front of children and teens)
– we talked about how making a “mistake” provides an opportunity for learning (I definitely learned a lot and reflected on it with them)
– it modelled the “growth mindset” as I talked about that this experience won’t prevent me from trying a modified version of this activity again and that in fact I feel challenged to try harder

So, our content based activity didn’t work out as planned, upon reflection though, more powerful learning took place. The debrief, post activity discussion, and subsequent reflection are far more meaningful learning in my humble opinion…

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2 thoughts on “When a teacher messes up…

  1. An honest reflection, Jamie. I don’t know if you messed up, as much as took a risk that didn’t have the intended pay off. But like you said, the result of the “mess up” was some organic learning.

    I find that students generally respond well to teacher mistakes. On the FIRST day this year, I somehow linked the wrong video, and a student noticed my fluster and said, “Don’t worry about it. Everyone makes mistakes”.

  2. I agree that when we fail or things aren’t perfect that we should take ownership in front of our students. I’ve had lots of opportunities to apologize for my choice of strategy in class this year 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this, and keep taking risks!

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