Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Failed!

Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.   ~John Dewey

When we received our ADE Training two years ago, the class of '09 was taught to celebrate failure. After all, it is fundamental to learning and success.  So rather than making this post a show and tell, I'll dance through some of this school year's failures, and remark what I have learned.

See through Cycle
Early in the school year I came up with the idea of our staff experiencing a "see through cycle" for six days-- staff would visit each other during six consecutive school days in a conscious effort at transparency and collaboration.  It was a terrific success, but had no legs.  I was not really surprised that this experience could not be sustained.  But it was an important experience for what lay ahead-- the terrific challenge of effecting change in a school culture.

Fantasy Candidate
I am glad that Cindy (my government teaching collaborator) and I threw open our school's mock election, allowing the kids to basically draw up the experience from scratch.  No regrets in this respect, but my brain storm of having the students create fantasy presidential candidates and create their campaigns was a bit of a fiasco.  Some of the zaniness of the fantasy campaigns drowned out the rest of the experience.  Allow students to create and  administer their own election was a fine learning experience, but the fantasy candidates became a distracting sideshow.

Passionate Collaboration
I think that my strategy of designing an in-service experience around "Pitching Your Passion" to fellow staff members may have been my greatest success in terms of promoting collaboration and challenge based learning at Mercy.  However, I would judge my own participation in the project to be in large measure a failure.  First, I was not fully engaged with my "Fight Apathy!" team at the inservice session.  Then I did little to bring us together before our spring launch.  I sort of forged ahead on my own, communicating very little with my teammates.  They were both dealing with younger, smaller groups which probably meant I was not blazing much of a trail.  We pulled together in the late going, and we were all happy with how the event turned out.  But it is more than a little ironic that my own collaborative experience was more shallow than many of the other teams I helped to organize.

Last October, I reflected on how Everett Rogers' model for the adoption and diffusion of innovations might apply to my attempt to promote a new learning design (CBL) with colleagues through professional development training.   Rogers describes "laggards" -- those in an institution most resistant to change.  At times I've been rather stunned by how extremely resistant to new ideas some persons have been.  At times this has been expressed through outbursts, but commonly, it has been completely passive behavior along the lines of Bartleby the Scrivener-- who though continually reasoned with by Melville's narrator offers nothing but his signature "I would prefer not to."  

Back in the Fall I vowed to ignore the inevitable laggards and focus on the true innovators.  Alas, the laggards have been difficult for me to dismiss.  More than a few nights I've come home grinding my teeth over some ridiculous passive aggressive behavior.  Though my efforts have not been particularly well served by this distraction, the laggards have only made me all the more determined and make sure that the final failure is theirs.  


Rick said...

You failed? “Enthusiasm is that kindling spark which marks the difference between the leaders in every activity and the laggards who put in just enough to get by.” -- Will Rhymes

Gary Anderson said...

Anything that ends in insightful, useful reflection like this can't really be considered a total failure. Thanks.

Susan said...

I think it is too early in the CBL game to identify laggards. The educational dialogue which occurred this year has been healthy for the institution and, hopefully, will be expanded next year.

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