Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's really ok to fail - I promise!

Three weeks until the big day exactly.  I'm getting married to a pretty amazing guy.  So awesome!  Yet, the only thing that I can think of is getting this blog up and somewhat running.  Teacher brain. I want to shut it off, but even in the summer, I can't.  Good thing I have an amazing fiance that keeps me level.

So what's the big need to start this blog.  I'm not too sure, but I feel like it's been years in the making.  I think I've been afraid of actually taking this step.  My first issue is that I'm not the best writer.  Spelling and the grammar rules that are out there just never stuck with me.  I'm going to try my best, but please, please, please forgive me in advance for mistakes.  This is huge for me to actually do this.  It's a huge fear of mine to actually have my writing out there in the public because I'm always afraid of making a mistake or even worse *gasp* failing! (more on that later).

It has also taken me forever to start this because I am a perfectionist in my work (I do try with grammar rules, but I always seem to make mistakes no matter what).  I needed to figured out a name for this blog and then try to come up with a decent layout.  The name of the blog killed me.  I pondered this particular issue for what seemed like an eternity.  Then it hit me while trying to get rid of this awful tan line (it's all about looking good in the dress).  I'm writing this blog about my experiences in middle school as a teacher.  

I. Love. Middle School.  

You should like it too. I'm serious.  Love it.  Forget about what you experienced when you were there.  Live through me now.  Love it and appreciate it.  Middle school can be the best time of your life as you begin to explore who you are, begin to really learn how to function in relationships, and look to find ways to succeed as a human being.  It's a lot to take on as a teenage.  It's even crazier where the chemicals in their brains' are going absolutely nuts.  It's a good time for the teacher, ha.

Middle school is the place where kids NEED to realize that's it's ok to fail.  I'm taking the chance with this blog.  It may fail - so what.  At least I'll have a place for me to write about my awesome experiences as a middle school science teacher.  I took a chance this past school year in changing up the way a teach and how my students received and processed the information being taught in class.  I did it the last two months of the year, and I also teach 8th grade.  The odds were stacked against me because who wants change they have one foot out the door of the middle school and one foot in the high school.  Was I worried of failing?  Absolutely.  Were their days when I thought that this mix of flipping my classroom, project based learning, and bringing their on devices (the evil cell phone) was going to backfire?  I thought that everyday, but we moved on and tried this crazy idea of making paper roller coasters.

Here are the results:

Just a few of the 22 that decorated my classroom - my classroom is not the biggest.  It was a bit of a tight squeeze.
The one roller coaster that is in the bigger picture was over 5'6".  The kids thought that it would be funny to make one taller than their teacher.  Yea, I have short parents.

The kids asked me day in and day out if we were going to finish this project and if it was going to be a success.  I kept saying that we're going to try to do our best and that if they don't work, it was ok that we failed.  Some of the kids looked at me somewhat perplexed.  It's ok to fail?!  Yea, I said it to them and I don't care.  It's a lesson that everyone needs to learn because when you fail, you learn.  You learn what needs to be changed in order to become successful the next time around.  There were lots of failures during the project, but they kept on working and trying to fix those failures and make them successes.  

This project could have blown up in my face, but with the determination of my kids and I, we did it.  It was the greatest feeling in the world.  We were ready to fail, but man, it felt good to just be awesome.  It was also great to see the fun they had when they were finally able to try out the coasters. 

As I close, in hopes that this blog doesn't fail, this is going to be a place for me to explore my profession and reflect on my work.  It's going to be a place where I can place my thoughts as I begin to evolve as a teacher once again - mind you, I'm starting year 6.  I get bored easily so I'm going to try to go full force into PBL, flipping my classroom, and adding even more integration of technology.  I have this idea for a skype project that I'm beyond excited about, but I'll save that for another day.  Gotta get up and work on wedding things then head to a soccer game at Yankees stadium.  (You will soon learn I am one of those psychotic NY fans - sorry to anyone who might be a Philly or Boston fan - my allegiances to my teams doesn't effect my teaching -for the most part!).  I leave you with this thought.  Our space program is full of failures, but just the other day, we celebrated the anniversary of one of, if not the greatest successes of that program - the first man on the moon.

It's ok to fail.


  1. Being a fellow middle school science teacher, I love your idea about constructing paper roller coasters and the idea of trying your best and instilling that failure is an important part of the process. I would love to know the parameters of the activity and how you set it up.

    1. It was a lot of work but totally worth it in the end. We had a unit on physics that we were covering and I found PaperRollerCoasters online and wanted to try it out. I downloaded the templates and then was able to get some card stock from my school (my co-teacher and I did have to supply our own card stock as well).

      I also was researching the flipped classroom and project based learning so I made this sort of a contest but they had to know the science behind it. We watched a video about the design process to get the wheels turning and then began to look at the science. I let the kids come up with the groups that they wanted to work in with for the rest of the year (I had to add and change kids depending on size and in some cases personalities). We started out with labs that would connect to the roller coasters. The kids worked on the worked on the labs each day and completed the work in class. This gave me time to go back and forth to see the concepts that they were missing.

      When we began to actually construct the structures we worked together as a whole group to learn how to make the different parts. I found Mr.Wayne's youtube channel that allowed me to put videos on the board and could stop them to construct as a class. The kids were able to split up the jobs with what worked best for them. As they started to construct the pieces I was able to pull a student from each group and teach them how to build tracks, turns, loops, etc. This was helpful because they could go back and teach other kids how to make the parts. I also had an iPad that allowed me to give it to kids when they wanted watch the videos on how to make the parts again.

      This project was great because you got to see the strengths of the kids come out during the project and you could listen as they explained the science behind why the coaster would or would not work. I did run out of time with the fact that I probably could have constructed and assessment about their particular coaster. It's in the works for next year. I also want them to create videos that would explain why their coaster should win the contest. This is also in the works. I did however have a rubric that I graded their coasters on.

      I learned so much from this experience and I feel like I could take this to the next level next year. I feel like my teaching is a process that is constantly evolving and this project was a great example of that. I'd love to talk to you more about it if you'd like. I feel like it's one of those projects the kids will do in school that they will never forget!