January 27, 2013

Sharing our Struggles/Challenges/Hurdles/Conundrums

While it's fun to pretend to be perfect on our blogs, and let people think that every lesson is as polished as that one that you spent hours putting together, implementing, reflecting on and writing up, we all know that's just not the case.  Sometimes a lesson we spent hours putting together totally flops.  Or one that worked perfectly for someone else (or you!) in the past, doesn't come together at all this time.  Conversation this week has turned to those lessons that don't go as planned.  The question a student asked that you didn't know how to answer.  The problem someone posed that you still haven't figured out a good explanation for.  Kate posted about how wonderful confusion is.  Michael shared his goal of practicing the skills of teaching in meaningful ways.  I want everyone to have a safe place to respond to this push and share the scary stuff- admit that you have no idea how to fix something, ask for help with a particular class or lesson, do a deep analysis of whatever thought you can't get out of your mind lately.  After tossing some ideas around I've decided I'd like to create a blog to do exactly that.  A place where it's expected that you won't know the answers, and where people can brainstorm solutions to the biggest challenges in teaching.  My vision is something along the lines of One Good Thing - one site with many authors (plus a submission form so that anyone can contribute without becoming an author).  At the moment the biggest hurdle to this is I have no idea what to call it.  The main issue is, I don't know what to call the topic, in fact it's a conversation I've had many times with teachers:

We want our students to ___ with a problem, because if they don't ___ it's not really learning.
Students don't feel a sense of accomplishment unless they ___ first.

All the words I can think of and have used in the past have such negative connotations.  I've used struggle, be frustrated, wrestle...  We want students to fail, make mistakes, find their errors, try again.  Each of those steps is so connected with negative emotions though.  As teachers, we need to do the same thing.  We need to... wallow? That's cheesemonkeysf's term.

So, here I am, openly admitting that I need help.  I have no idea what to call this blog, this phenomenon of having a hard time with something in order to really understand it.  Grappling?  I'll stop trying and just ask for help.  What do you call this concept?  What should we call the blog?

Thank you for your assistance,

p.s. Some blog title ideas from twitter so far:
Failing Flamboyantly
Need More Practice
Learning from our Mistakes
Making Flops Flip
Fixer Uppers
Where Did I Go Right?
Problem of the Week
Problem for the Tweak

I really want a word for the concept too.  Maybe someone should just invent a new word and we can spread it?


  1. I like "Fixer Uppers" or "Growing on Questions."

  2. I like wrestle and grapple. Often I use the word chew...like as in to squeeze out the juicy bits. Made "juice" like in half an orange. Can we truly taste something if we don't chew it first? Can we quench our hunger if we don't stop and chew our our food? . But then again why does work have to be such a dirty word? I feel so good after I work hard. Then I sit back and rest a bit and when I have recovered, I do some more work.

    When I was in high school, I went to swim practice 11 times per week. I also had a job. I also loved going to the basketball games. Oh, and I had chores. And our team was a "scholar/athlete team" meaning we had a combined gpa over 3.5 (that was a long time ago when the only AP class was history and it was experimental.) My point is that it is okay to have a lot on one's plate when we are young (I do pretty well now, but I certainly did more then, like coaching and teaching...yeah) so it is okay to work a little hard.
    I hope I've made sense. I like your thinking very much and will certainly participate!

  3. I decided to go with Productive Struggle. It's a phrase that I've seen around that conveys the positive aspect of the struggle. Plus, we can have a punny tag line, but I'd rather have a simpler title. Check out the new blog!