Friday, August 7, 2015

When Learning Isn't Fun

Very inspirational, Tom. 

But you didn’t have students showing up in your classroom a week from Tuesday. Life has deadlines; the lightbulb didn’t. 

“Fail forward.” Nice phrase—one I’ve used with students. Sometimes You Win—Sometimes You Learn. Nice title—one my husband has on his shelf. “How can we make our classrooms safe places for kids to fail?” Nice question—one I’ve discussed with colleagues. 

But it’s another thing entirely when I’ve chewed up hours learning to set up a Web page (“establish a Web presence” was the school requirement), and it’s still only half-done. 

“Google.Sites is easy,” they said. Ha! First, it set itself up in Japanese, and when I translated it into English, I had no idea what some of the directions were saying. (“Moonspeak,” the IT guy called it.) Finally had to get help for that. 

Next, the directions had nothing to do with what actually showed up on the page. I even used the help buttons. The help for editing my sidebar told me to click the “edit” button at the bottom of the sidebar. Spent a long time looking for what was really obvious in the help screen shots. Finally went back to the IT guy. 

“Oh, yeah. That’s weird,” he said. Apparently there is no such button. You go to the little cog at the top of the page and select “Edit site layout.” THEN the sidebar becomes editable. 

The photo of myself I loaded was gigantic—my students could all meet my husband’s right shoulder. I tried about four different things, and suddenly, it fit. No idea what I did.

So I learned that learning a new skill is not quick, and it's not beautiful. It can feel a lot like a waste of time. And I'm still not done. I have to add course descriptions and unit folders. Figure out where my announcement page went. Learn how to have a separate calendar for each class, rather than all classes on the same calendar. 

But I know how to do the first. I know who to ask about the second and third. Then I’ll mess around a bit with modifying some links. 

Guess what else. I’m a 50-year-old digital immigrant, and I’ve nearly designed my own Web page! I’m beginning to feel a tiny bit pleased with myself. 

I’d love to be able to promise my students that learning will always be fun, but I discovered this week that that’s simply not true—not even for grown-ups, not even for teachers. Maybe the best thing I can do is be forced out of my comfort zone every so often to learn things I’m not good at. (I love to say I’m always learning, but mostly I’m learning more about the types of things I’m already good at.)

Maybe, somehow, it will seem a little more authentic next time I talk to a student about failing forward. Maybe, somehow, my classroom will be a little safer place to find the ways that don't work on the way to finding the ones that do.

Maybe I’ll even have a decent looking Web page up by the beginning of school.

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