Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dealing with Disappointment

In a recent post I mentioned that in order to learn and grow, we must be willing to risk. 
This is so important. It is hard, when working with children, to know what feels like a risk to them. We, the adults, must work hard to create a safe space, a place where their ideas and attempts will be encouraged and accepted. 

It is so hard, with so many kids in the room, to tune in to the inner life of each child. We are bound to miss sometimes. But if we really care and really invest ourselves in community building, it can go a long way toward creating a space for learning. 
Isn't that a huge part of the job of the teacher? 

I have had to cope with my share of disappointments this year. I applied for 2 grants and 1 teaching award. I was flatly rejected for all of them. I spent hours working on my applications only to receive a very brief, form letter stating, "thank you for applying BUT blah, blah, blah..."
Ok. I recovered. I'll probably try again. But it felt awful. And the worst part was trying to see myself through someone else's eyes and feeling that I was not good enough. 
I can only imagine that this is what our students feel at times. They are graded, tested, labeled, encouraged to compete...and often they have to face the feeling that they haven't measured up in some way or other. 

I have entered my students work in contests as well. I always give a big pep talk about how we probably won't win, we just enter for fun, it would be neat to win, and we might feel sad if we don't, but it's ok. This year we actually did win something. In fact, we won a total of 3 "first places" in tech4learning contests. It was truly an amazing feeling, for me and for the winning students. But what about all my other students who entered and did not win?
One sweet, sensitive boy burst into tears when he heard that his classmate won first place in the spring contest. 
"What about me?" he cried.

We are moving away from a competitive society and toward a more collaborative, "flat" world. Should we enter only contests or competitions that promote collaboration? I have wanted to join some of these like thinkquest, but because of my lab schedule I haven't been able to manage it yet. The contests we have entered have all had excellent projects or content, things I would have done with students anyway, regardless of entering the contest. However, I did not give students the option of entering their work. I think next time I will let them decide. Truthfully, with the spring contest, I didn't even tell the younger students (first and second grade) that we were doing the project for a contest. I just entered the projects afterwards. I never thought we would win!

On the positive side, some of the winning students were not the usual suspects. They were not the students who normally get recognized for excellence at school. This gave them a chance to shine, and everyone deserves to have that chance. 

I know that disappointment is part of life. It is ok to try something and fail. It really is. We feel bad. We move on. We try again. 


TJ Shay said...


You are brave to bring these thoughts out in the open. It seems from reading peoples' thoughts about the number of followers, blog readership, or the amount of Karma; that many educators are nearly as fragile as the students in our classes.

My favorite part of your post was this line: "But if we really care and really invest ourselves in community building, it can go a long way toward creating a space for learning." WOW, two things I take away from that... First, is that you must be an amazing educator! Your students are very lucky to have someone who cares so much about their feelings. Second, that you have hit on the very cure for the behaviors that we are troubled by! We invest ourselves in the community and the people that nourish and support us!

WE (the inclusive group that supports each other) will create a community of practice. A community that supports thoughts/ideals and encourages growth. After all, isn't that what real educators do?

I am glad that we have become acquainted through Twitter. You are just the kind of person I am glad to have in my Personal Learning Network!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Andrea!

42 is Douglas Adams' answer to life, the universe and everthing!

At 61 I can honestly say I've had my fair share of studying disappointment. It is (almost) unpredictable as not every let-down is a disappointment. But have you noticed that disappointments rarely come with one let-down. For me it usually takes three let-downs. The third is a disappointment.

So if I have two let-downs I can almost be certain that if I have another close to those it will be a disappointment.

I think you have got what it takes Andrea. It takes a lot to come out and talk about disappointment when it happens, and you have good reasons to be.

But, hey, summer is here!

The hazy balmy days have come in fast,
A garden-loose late-blooming tulip yawns,
Limp petals soft from drooping roses cast,
And daisies flourish on the feathered lawns;

A cicada wakes from the nymphal sleep
Then sheds the fragile nut-brown pupal shell,
And so begins its steady skyward creep
To chant the long percussive choric spell;

The karo's darkened pods crack and expose
The cloying seed in clusters set to fall,
A blackbird swoops down keen to interpose
And sing his warbling chronicle to all;

With these the days I long for have begun,
The warm and lazy summer days of sun.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Andrea said...

@TJ-You are so right. I have to remember that all of life is a classroom if you know what I mean. I love being part of a community of practice and amazing educators. I am so happy to have you in my PLN as well. And Ken from Middle Earth, too, although I haven't seen him on twitter (who knows, maybe a wise move on his part).

@Ken - thanks for another poetic comment. But hey, it isn't summer in Middle Earth, is it?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Brrrr! Andrea, Kia ora!

No it certainly isn't summer. It is definitely mid-winter. The shortest day has passed however, but it continues to get colder for a while. Spring starts 1st September.

I think of summer poems in the winter. I like summer!

Ka kite