180 days of learning

180 days of learning

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Starting Over

September 14, 2012

Do you ever feel like you need a do-over… a re-do… a chance to start over fresh?

I do.

But, up until I started teaching, I didn’t realize how important “do-overs” actually are.

Every day we ask students to learn new concepts, add new information to old concepts, and grow as human beings. All of these processes often times take LOTS of re-do’s and do-overs.  But, if you haven’t noticed, asking someone to do something again might not make them very happy. In fact, when you ask someone to do something over, they look at it as a negative thing. Being required to repete something has come to mean you failed the first time, and you just aren’t good enough.

But what if our classrooms could become environments where its ok to mess up, as long as you are willing to take on the challenge of a “redo” to make it better?

Easier said than done.

Its not a common practice in today’s society to look at a “do over” as an opportunity instead of a punishment. In fact, its more common to find someone who tries something once, and if they aren’t good at it, they give up and start looking for something else to try. Thats why we have students that dread Math class, hate Language Arts, and tune out during Science. When they aren’t good at these subjects the first time around, they think they have failed. They don’t want to redo the assignments until they get better. They’d rather just brush the class off as something they really aren’t interested in, than take on the challenge of being better at it.

So, if we have society against us, how can we change the stigmas associated with do-overs…redos… chances to start over fresh?

I’m not really sure if there is one particular thing… but I know that as a first year teacher, I have had to become an expert at doing something again to make it better. A do-over expert. I have to be comfortable making a fool of myself in front of 25 teenage students, admitting my mistake, and then making sure its a moment where I put my redo in a positive light. If society tells them that re-doing something means they failed… I have to model the fact that a re-do only makes you stronger. I have to model the process of acknowledging a mistake, brushing myself off, and then searching for a better answer because I know that when I discover one, I will be more accomplished because of it.

So, on this 180 days of learning challenge, I think we need to teach our students how to be expert “re-doers.” We need to help them learn how to take something society might say is a failure, and turn it into an opportunity. If they can learn how to do that, every challenge they face later in life will be taken on with the mind-set of a life long learner. They won’t quit when they find themselves needing a do-over… a redo… a chance to start over fresh. Because remember…

We all need them.

Samantha Arvesen, ENL teacher at Lincoln Junior High


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