In a recent post I mentioned that in order to learn and grow, we must be willing to risk.
This is so important. It is hard, when working with children, to know what feels like a risk to them. We, the adults, must work hard to create a safe space, a place where their ideas and attempts will be encouraged and accepted.
It is so hard, with so many kids in the room, to tune in to the inner life of each child. We are bound to miss sometimes. But if we really care and really invest ourselves in community building, it can go a long way toward creating a space for learning.
Isn't that a huge part of the job of the teacher?
I have had to cope with my share of disappointments this year. I applied for 2 grants and 1 teaching award. I was flatly rejected for all of them. I spent hours working on my applications only to receive a very brief, form letter stating, "thank you for applying BUT blah, blah, blah..."
Ok. I recovered. I'll probably try again. But it felt awful. And the worst part was trying to see myself through someone else's eyes and feeling that I was not good enough.
I can only imagine that this is what our students feel at times. They are graded, tested, labeled, encouraged to compete...and often they have to face the feeling that they haven't measured up in some way or other.
I have entered my students work in contests as well. I always give a big pep talk about how we probably won't win, we just enter for fun, it would be neat to win, and we might feel sad if we don't, but it's ok. This year we actually did win something. In fact, we won a total of 3 "first places" in tech4learning contests. It was truly an amazing feeling, for me and for the winning students. But what about all my other students who entered and did not win?
One sweet, sensitive boy burst into tears when he heard that his classmate won first place in the spring contest.
"What about me?" he cried.
We are moving away from a competitive society and toward a more collaborative, "flat" world. Should we enter only contests or competitions that promote collaboration? I have wanted to join some of these like thinkquest, but because of my lab schedule I haven't been able to manage it yet. The contests we have entered have all had excellent projects or content, things I would have done with students anyway, regardless of entering the contest. However, I did not give students the option of entering their work. I think next time I will let them decide. Truthfully, with the spring contest, I didn't even tell the younger students (first and second grade) that we were doing the project for a contest. I just entered the projects afterwards. I never thought we would win!
On the positive side, some of the winning students were not the usual suspects. They were not the students who normally get recognized for excellence at school. This gave them a chance to shine, and everyone deserves to have that chance.
I know that disappointment is part of life. It is ok to try something and fail. It really is. We feel bad. We move on. We try again.
image credit: Bright_Star's flickr photostream