No one walks into a basketball gym on day one, listens to a few pointers from the coach and then makes varsity and never misses a shot.
No one picks up a guitar after watching a few YouTube videos on how to play and finds disappointment when they stumble through their first song.
No one expects to be Picasso the first moment they hold a brush or expects to write like Whitman with their first pencil marks.
Except, of course, in the classroom. In the classroom, you either get it right away or you quit.
In the classroom, teachers and students alike are guilty of ignoring every lesson we’ve learned on courts and in rehearsals.
Teachers give a few pointers on how to write a paper or analyze a poem, show a video, provide a rubric and then groan in disappointment at student struggles.
Students read a bit, take a few notes, half-attempt the worksheet or warm-up of the day and then whine about bad grades and “just not being a ______ student” when confronted.
When the work happening in a classroom is productive, it should be challenging. It should force a modicum of failure – enough to show there’s room to improve.
That bit of failure should inspire both teachers and students to keep moving, repeating, rehearsing, practicing.
You’re not supposed to get it all on the very first try. That’s not how learning works.
But for some reason, in the classroom, we forget that. Instead of valuing the experience of learning something new and making something better, we focus only on the end result.
Instead of evaluating ourselves and others in regards to where we end up, we criticize and overanalyze the errors that we should be making along the way.
Our students are most guilty of this: expecting perfection at every turn, not seeing the powerful growth that can come from a well-earned mistake. Our role as teachers is to make sure our classrooms, gradebooks and feedback are designed at every opportunity to reinforce precisely what students implicitly understand in their other activities: it takes time and it’s ok that it takes time.
I’m (still) trying at this. Sometimes badly.