Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fear Factor: Embracing Failure as an Educational Innovator #immooc

Its a well-know fact that people we view as innovators endured their fair share of failures. It is a critical part of the process. People like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Temple Grandin all achieved their accomplishments because they embraced failure and iteration in order to refine and perfect the products and processes they envisioned.

How do innovators rise above the fear of failure? It has been ingrained in most of us since we were little that failure is a bad thing and should be avoided. When I reflect on where that fear of failure came from in my personal life I would have to say two sources; school and my parents. Sometimes
Each week at Reeble's Grocery we could get a new volume
at a low, low price! I loved these books!
those 2 were inextricably combined. I will never forget a negative experience 2nd grade. We had over the course of time acquired a set of Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedias as a part of a weekly promotion at our grocery store. I loved reading the facts in them and learning about people and places around the world. At school we were learning about the pilgrims coming to American. I read all about them in my new encyclopedias and took it upon myself to write about what I had learned. I was proud of my paper and although I had just done it for me and not for school I decided I'd share it with my teacher. I thought she would like it since we had been learning about the Pilgrims in class. As my teacher sat down to read it she picked up her red pen and started marking up my paper. I was mortified. She noted all of my errors in my spelling and punctuation. I remember her handing it back to me, all bloody with red ink and I walked away from her desk feeling very sad. I did not write for enjoyment for a long time and I certainly didn't share anything else I was proud of with her.

I understand that to innovate in education I have to embrace that fear. That's tough when you have been an educator for awhile and people expect you to be the "expert"; to have it all figured out. When something I try doesn't work out I feel like an imposter, like a failure. It is hard to get out of that failure mentality when it has been perceived as such a negative in learning all of my life. I think we need a new word. The term failure has such a negative connotation I don't know that it can ever be redeemed or redefined as a positive.

This year I am practicing what I have been preaching. To innovate means to try new techniques, fail, iterate and try again until I find the process that works. I am part of a team that believes that blended learning models will allow us to leverage technology to create personalized learning for students that will help them succeed in Algebra I. We are piloting this with 2 classrooms and will be comparing data with non-blended classroom models. We have already hit some challenges that we did not plan for and some days I feel that anxiety of doubt creeping up my spine and tightening its grip around my heart. I don't like that feeling, nobody does but it is a feeling I'm committed to pushing through in order to be a part of team willing to challenge the status quo. We will be blogging about this as a team of teachers, administrators, directors and hopefully a few students to share our successes and challenges throughout this learning process. I am hoping that being a part of the Innovator's Mindset MOOC will provide me a networking opportunity with others who are facing the fear factor of failure and embracing it as we strive to innovate our practice and meet the needs of today's learners.