Scared to try something new
I happened to overhear a conversation in the staff room. I wasn’t eavesdropping. The teacher sharing it obviously trusted her fellow teachers but wouldn’t have wanted the principal to hear.
She thought the principal had her in mind to lead an initiative at the school. There had been a few conversations between them about the prospect and she had “evidence” that he had been testing her proficiency in the particular skills needed.
Because of those skills she was a natural choice but it wasn’t something she had done before and she didn’t want to do it.
She knew (because he had said so) that the principal was staking his reputation on the success of the initiative and felt she would be blamed if it didn’t work, even if she had tried her hardest.
Failure has to be an option
If something new is being attempted, failure has to be an option for the people involved to be willing and comfortable to trust.
This is part of what is sometimes called “messy learning”.
Here’s an example of one small messy learning moment. A few days ago in class we were making periscopes. One boy was determined that he could use a different construction method and it would still work. I wasn’t convinced but when I saw his confidence and enthusiasm I said, “OK. Give it a go.” It did work and he was pleased with himself. If it hadn’t worked I hope he still would have felt comfortable about it and would have continued experimenting to make it work.
Messy learning doesn’t always mean instant success but when it’s well planned and scaffolded, it often leads to deep learning and for students a by-product of that is often academic success.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrethink/8253117849/”>John Spencer – EdRethink</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>