An Illinois Educator on the Benefits of "Scary" Conversations

There's a fantastic essay in the Washington Post today, penned by Illinois educator Stephen Traphagen, that explores why teachers, and students, should engage in "scary" conversations about failure and continuous learning. The entire piece is worth a read, but here's a teaser (and a spoiler, since it's the last paragraph):

If we want to create schools where kids feel safe to fail and take the risks necessary to grow, we need to start by modeling that practice with the way teachers talk to each other, work with their supervisors, and plan their classes. If we make it safe for teachers to fail and learn publicly, we’ve made it safe for them to do their very best work, and also modeled to students the idea that failure can be painful and cause for celebration at the same time. If we replace declarations of mastery with a stance of inquiry and continual improvement, then we remove preconceived ceilings for success. Isn’t that the kind of school we’d want our own kids to go to?

In a way, Traphagan is exposing the prevalence of imposter syndrome in schools, not just from the perspective of educators but also from the perspective of students. If we are promoting to students the idea of lifelong learning and growth mindset, of which failure plays an integral part, then as educators we must exhibit that behavior ourselves. We have to show kids that failing doesn't always have to be scary. In fact, it's often the best way to learn and improve.

TeachBoost works with schools and districts to promote ongoing teacher growth, empowering instructional leaders to develop their team to the best of their abilities. Traphagan's essay is a reminder that all of that work trickles down to the students, who in many ways are more likely to do as you do, rather than as you say.

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