Reveries of a Solitary Teacher: 2 (May 2015)

potatoes

I’ve learnt more from mistakes than from anything else (other than maybe Twitter)

As a GTP I had the opportunity to train at a forward thinking – tech savy – outstanding school. I was encouraged to reflect on my teaching and to try things out. It was through getting things wrong that my teaching got better.

A very memorable car crash of a lesson descended into students repeatedly posting the word ‘potato’ onto a shared Twitter account in a half baked lesson attempt (I shudder at the thought now). Rather than write me off as a failed teacher I was encouraged to reflect on what went wrong and regroup.

I went on to pass the year with flying colours – metaphorical unfortunately. I fled from using Twitter for learning at this point and started using a dedicated blogging site designed for schools. This worked to an extent however did not have the thrill for students of being published for friends, family, Nan to see.

As an NQT I picked up my tech interest in another outstanding school, this time a Teaching School. I started moving class blogs onto posterous and within 5 minutes of an introductory lesson realised the importance of moderation settings. After a few years I had built up a bank of resources and had students contributing but in a fairly limited way. In particular I found that work which replicated tasks we had done in class was the least engaged with. Then posterous died.

With that my focus for teaching moved more towards sharpening my classroom tools rather than extending learning beyond the classroom and I didn’t have the heart to build up the bank of stuff I had never backed up on posterous. The work with and support from the Teaching School team was a resource I couldn’t waste.

We are a few years down the line from the ‘potato’ incident and I now cycle down the road to my new school by the seaside however it is still a reminder for me to make each student accountable in an online forum! We shouldn’t give up because things go wrong – I am now using Twitter for Year 11 revision using hashtags for learning chats at specific times and it has been great! I have been using a flipped learning approach with units and the work produced is of a quality that is better than EOY targets.

Mistakes are important and we should assess them dispassionately to develop ourselves is the conclusion I am drawing here – each right decision we make is the product of the wrong ones we knew not to make. It is OK to get something wrong if you do it right next time.

In no way am I suggesting a try anything approach – do your research and reflections first. It has taken me years to get to where I am – and I am still moving on and reflecting but don’t be afraid of the ‘potato’ incident – it teaches you a lot.

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