“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford
The above is a quote that used to hang on the wall of my classroom, when I taught in a place where I had a classroom to myself and decorating choices were entirely up to me. It was meant to be encouraging to my students as they progressed through a year of chemistry, through a year of struggle and growing and learning. Our education system is designed in such a way that students feel they must always find the right answer, and find it quickly, or they have failed to meet some imaginary mark that measures their worth. Rarely do we reinforce struggle and failure in the education system as the most effective way to grow, so I wanted to remind my students that perfection, especially rapid perfection, was not the goal of the course.
Upon reflection I have found that I could be living up to this quote more fully in my professional career. I would not describe the last few years of my teaching career as a failure. Far from it. However there is (as there always is) much room for improvement, and this year I am intent on seizing those opportunities, challenging myself as an educator, and learning through my own struggle and failure.
I spent several years teaching at a high school in Arizona. In that environment I effectively employed a methodology of instruction known as Modeling Instruction. (If you are not familiar, I highly recommend you check out the American Modeling Teachers Association site for more information.) In 2013, I moved across the country to teach at a school in New York City. The last two years have been a steep learning curve for me as I adjusted to a new city, a new school, new colleagues, and students who had different needs than those I had experience working with.
After two years at my school in NYC, I believe I have a firmer grasp on who my students are and what they need. As those who attempt National Board Certification know, we as teachers must always evaluate these kids, at this time, in this setting when making decisions about what will happen in the classroom. This year I will be making some changes in how I approach Modeling Instruction in the classroom, changes that I am making based upon the needs to my particular student population.
In this blog post, I will describe the year outline that I used in past years, and then the outline I will be using this year, as well as some of the reasons behind my changes. Future blog posts will provide more detail about specific changes, as well as reflections on how the year is progressing.