This was our first full week of Design Challenge. I was not prepared. I am certain that I grew more and learned more in this one week that I think that I have ever done in my previously 21 years working in public education. I was fortunate to have strong support from my amazing coteachers, Mrs. File and Mr. Causby. Without them, I don't think that it would have been as smooth. Also a special thank you to Mr. Martin for helping us during 2nd period as well. I must admit that I considered multiple alternative jobs frequently during this week. It was one of the most challenging weeks that I have ever experienced. The challenges were frequent and often we failed at them. But that is the beauty of what we are doing. We are learning from our failures and developing new solutions that will result in us better serving our students. We are actively adjusting many of our plans and having to create new possibilities on a moment's notice.
Some of our challenges involved students for nearly 200 minutes each day. Another formidable challenge involves working with 70 students for nearly 100 of those minutes each day. We are also challenged with instructing all students with very different abilities at one time. We may have an AP/Honors students seated next to a non-English speaking student who is seated near a student with a learning disability. Like any other classroom, our students motivation varies. We learned that some of our students do not see the value of the Design Challenge experience. We have also learned that many of students are very creative and ingenious when it comes to solving problems. We have also learned that the majority of our students really like their teachers and appreciate their willingness to help and encourage them to be successful. We were often challenged with solving new situations that I would never have previously imagined in teaching. But I think that this is what makes us grow.
Growth is something that lots of educators value but it is a messy and chaotic process. It can be very frustrating and discouraging while you are experiencing it. In short, I am very confident that I learned so much more about myself, my students, my teaching ability, and my problem solving abilities that I ever would have else where. There were days when I honestly came home and wondered if I would ever return the next day. It reminded me of being a first year teacher all over again. But then each morning, I was up and going to school earlier than I had to. I was essentially in there "busting my butt" to adjust to what our students needed and working with my colleagues. In short, I was growing. One day, I had to submit two discipline referrals. I had years in my previous positions where I never had to submit two discipline referrals. Yet, I learned so much from the experiences this week.
I saw that I have a lot of students who genuinely want to learn and have a goal after high school. I developed some preliminary relationships with several students and I know that I care very much about all my students already. I left at the end of the week hoping that I gave all of them something to go forward with and hopefully helped them to be better. I know that we will continue to experience challenges but I also learned that these challenges are not insurmountable. There will be times when I will be frustrated. Students saw this a few times. But what was even more important for them to see is what I responded to that frustration. I feel that it is imperative that the adults who work with our students model appropriate responses to situations so our students have a positive model to use. Our students also saw the adults in the classroom working collaboratively to ensure that we were moving them forward. Once again, a great model for them to emulate later on.
As I reflect on the many failures that we experienced, I could not "be happier" as our principal shared in my interview. It is failure that often teaches us so much more. In the past, when I have been successful initially, I often did not learn many of the lessons that I needed to learn since I was not faced with failure. I realized in later years that I often made mistakes that I would not have been if I had failed earlier. Thus, failure is an opportunity to learn. I really developed a new appreciation for failing forward and it is my hope that our students will also learn that failure is an opportunity for them to grow and learn valuables lessons. Next week will also be another opportunity for growth and change. But then again, I am developing a deeper appreciation for what failure teaches us and learning how to growth from it. In actuality, I could not be happier.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.