2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

2015 PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Practicing What I Preach

“This is the time to experiment; this is the time to fail,” I tell my student teachers.  “Try something different.  Take a chance.  The worst thing that could happen is that you fail a lesson.  Then you will reflect on it and learn from it.”  Yeah.  This is stellar advice; it’s too bad that I have such a hard time following it myself.


When I previously thought about failure, I only thought about small increments of lessons, minutes of time where I felt that the students weren’t getting it or that I was off-focus.  I pride myself on being flexible during those lessons; I can change horses mid-stream, and you may not even realize it.  Don’t get me wrong; I take risks, lots of them.  I just never fail.  NEVER.


Until now. “Let’s do a wiki,” I said to my students.  “This will be a great way to collaborate and create a really useful finished project.  You’ll love this.”  God bless my Rhetoric and Composition students; they look at me with those trusting eyes, believing that I know what the hell I’m preaching.  Half of them were in my Sophomore Language Arts class, and they knew what they were getting when they chose me for their senior year.  They knew that I’d make it work, whatever “it” was, and then they convinced the other half of the class that this was so.


[caption id="attachment_39" align="alignnone" width="223"] Take a chance! What can possibly go wrong?[/caption]


Two weeks later, I took stock of our class wiki.  It was awful.  Disorganized.  Cluttered.  Ugly.  I looked at the rubric I had naively created two weeks before I had ever seen a wiki, and I realized that it had NOTHING to do with our wiki and that I had no way of measuring learning or growth.  Our wiki, MY wiki, was an epic fail.  Whose fault was it?  Mine.  When I confessed my sins to my class, the kinder souls pointed out some technical problems that were not in my control, but I knew better.  I wasn’t able to pull through on this one.  Now what?


I’m not going to lie; I have a huge ego.  Wait, are you laughing?  I’ve had many sleepless nights over this damned wiki.  I asked myself, “What will I do differently?  How can I make this meaningful next time?”  More importantly, I asked myself, “How can I pull a success out of this right now?”  It was with real relief that I graded my students’ video presentations (created from information gathered from the evil wiki), and I saw that the students really did learn.  They learned how to research and present in an organized manner; however, that presentation was not part of the wiki.  I failed, but my students didn’t fail.  I failed, and my students didn’t even care; they just went on with the lesson, which ultimately was very relevant to them.  I failed, and I need to get over it.

We all need one of these.



When my esteemed Blended Learning colleagues (Shannon and Christina) share their problems with me, I am the voice of reason.  I am the first to point out what the children have learned from this experience. I am the first to remind these young ones that they need to forgive themselves for the courageous risks they take.  I am the first to celebrate the silver lining.  I am the last to do this for myself.

Stephani Itibrout

English Teacher

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