Tuesday night as a treat, I made banana smoothies as breakfast for the first three days back from Winter Break. I had three over ripened bananas on hand, coconut smoothie mix left over, vanilla soy milk, and local honey. Against my initial laziness that begged me not to make more dishes, I pulled out the blender and set it up. I began with the bananas. After all the ingredients blended together, I grabbed a spoon for a taste. It was good, but needed something. So I added a dash of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg to give a winter twist to my usual summer drink. A final taste for insurance and I pulled out a blue pitcher to pour the smoothie into for the week. The thought of adding a yummy drink to my usual breakfast was thrilling; it was just what I needed to kill the back to school blues. (Check out another really awesome recipe for a Bombay Banana Smoothie!) I grabbed the handle of the my blender and before I could think to prevent it, the bottom stayed on the stand completely unscrewed allowing my freshly made delicious smoothie to spill out all over the kitchen counter and floor. As it was happening, I did have one moment when I thought it’s just the counter–save it, it’ll be okay. The thirty-two year old in me had to scoop it into the sink, while the eight year old in me watched completely heart-broken.
For the past few months, since we received our state test scores, we/I have operated under the fear of others. Fear of others telling me I am not doing my job, fear of losing my job, fear of not being a good teacher. AKA fear of the future/unknown. Fear has ruled my life for so long. I lay up at night thanks to this fear, especially the part about being a good teacher. There is little that matters more to me. There are so many changes that can easily instill fear and overwhelm me. Changes like the new version of English Language Arts state exam. I love what I do and want to be good at it.
It is so easy to live in this constant place of anxiety, though and allow it to spin without ever stepping off the merry-go-round–I am my mother’s child after all. The second day back from Winter Break; I am here again. Same anxieties as my first year of teaching wondering if the “others” will come in, judge me, and tell me I’m not good enough. Every time “the others” come by I remember the Lost, Season 1 episodes when we/Kate and Jack watched the legs of “the others” walk by in complete fear.
August 2012, I attended an awesome workshop through the Smithsonian Institute’s Ed Lab program. While in attendance, I had a philosophical epiphany: Why don’t I allow my students to fail and learn from their failures more? With every product they produce, I always expected perfection and got frustrated with even minute mistakes. Each day during the workshop we were given a mission with the expectation that we may fail, but learn from our failures. The first day I was a total perfectionist and attempted to complete the mission–of course I would be the exception! However, I failed and learned about several digital tools in the process. So I began to question what I considered learning in my classroom. It used to be that I considered the assessment as proof of mastery and mastery the goal. It used to be that I saw it as a failure when my students didn’t achieve mastery. What I didn’t see was everything else they may have learned out side of the one or two skills I was assessing. Failure doesn’t always mean failure. Sometimes failure might mean learning.
So as the date for our school to be inspected by the state comes closer, I bring to mind the moment I realized students failing allows us an opportunity to learn something new about ourselves on that bright sunny August afternoon. As our state tests get closer, I am reminded that I am not psychic and unable to predict how we perform–I am only human and intended to be so. As the fear begins to rise, the thirty-two year old in me reminds me that sometimes, spills happen and you clean them up and let them go, but you have no control over preventing the spill. I look forward to next time I have a few over ripened bananas because Tuesday’s failure has gifted me the perfect recipe.