Build Their Character – Don’t Make Them Become One

It’s late and as usual, I give my social media accounts a glance before bed. This summer, while being at home with my kids who are 5, 3 and 1, (I won’t go by months, because I know how annoying that is for some people :P), I’ve been conscious about not being on my phone so much and to be present and engaged so that I catch those moments that slip by so easily when we are hiding behind screens. (Note that I am all for Social Media and that when the time comes, I will be teaching my kids how and when to use it appropriately so they understand the importance of having a positive digital footprint- Social LEADia  IS my next read, after all!! :).

Forgive me for rambling-I’m known to do so on occasion as my mind wonders and wanders!! As I was saying – as I was sitting in bed checking our school #SageCreekLRSD, I came across a Tweet from my principal wanting to know our thoughts on this picture. I had to get out of bed and blog about it, because 140 characters didn’t allow me to express my thoughts thoroughly. I’m also known to be a night owl so here I go….why not?!

Immediately- I agreed with Tom Loud‘s tweet. Since I joined the world of Twitter for the purpose of growing my PLN and learning from people who are passionate and driven, I find myself liking and retweeting many of his thoughts. When I read something that resonates with me, I like it and retweet it so I can reference it later. But then, my principal pushed my thinking by asking us to reflect on this statement. If it was an either or, I would definitely chose the later statement because as we know it, success can be defined in more ways than one and if I were to teach my students how to be successful based on my definition of the word, I would be unsuccessful in doing so. But in this case, I don’t believe it’s a one or none option. That, is the beauty of teaching, leading and learning.

I believe resiliency needs to be taught and modeled in classrooms and in homes- but being successful and what it means to be successful is a topic that deserves to be discussed with our students. I do agree it is crucial to teach them how to respond when they are not successful, but would also add that it is as important, if not more important to discuss how to respond when others aren’t succeeding. Do we stare, let them be, give them space? Do we offer help, ask them a question, notice their struggle? That whole collaboration piece can be and usually is the solution. Brian Aspinall said it himself – when we’re stuck and need ideas, we go to google. Responding to others’ needs and offering help (and asking for help) is empathy at its finest – which is a point I think we can all agree on –  that empathy is an ability we want our students and children to develop.

Earlier this week, I was watching one of Brian Aspinall‘s TEdx Talks on Education Reform. At one point, he explains the impact his Papa had on him growing up and how his teachings changed once he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Brian then shares with us how he still continued to learn from his Papa, even though he had Alzheimer’s, by watching him work. This man never gave up and was determined to find a solution to a given problem. He remained persistent even when the task became challenging. In a classroom setting, having explicit discussions are important, but we can’t forget that our students also learn from observation. They are always watching, feeling, and tuned-in, which is why it is so important we respond appropriately when we, as teachers, are not successful. What we choose to say and what we don’t say both give students a message. I believe the statement in this picture can and should be a message intended not only for kids themselves, but adults as well. This tweet also ties in well to Brian Aspinall‘s latest Golf Cart Vlog Reflection – How Do We Evaluate Failure?In his vlog, Brian mentions the importance of defining failure, the concept of embracing it, providing good feedback, and reevaluating evaluation.

In the picture shown at the top of the post, we talk about not being successful. My interpretation of these few words is synonymous to failure. Keep in mind though that I am one of those who believe failure is proof that we are trying. That failure gives us feedback into trying again but while changing a variable, tweaking, tinkering and reflecting to ultimately find a solution or to better ourselves. Failing is a way to move forward. To me failing is a reason to not give up and to persist in order to reach the objective we’ve set for our self. I am one of those fail-forward-type-thinking people. Failing is not black and white as long as we are learning from the moments when we are “not successful”. Attitude has so much to do with how we see failure and/or success for that matter.

To wrap it up, because I don’t like reading long blog posts myself – I think the best thing we can do for kids as teachers is to reflect on such statements and push our own thinking, especially in times where we are unsuccessful, which subsequently will have an impact on our students mindset and mindsight. As Brian puts it, and the saying on the picture suggests – “We need to shift our(their) thinking from failure is bad, to failure is good.”

I also want my students to create content and not just consume it. Consumption is playing the game of school. George Couros has mentioned this many times before including when he spoke to our staff in April. I don’t want my students playing the game of school because I played that game and like many of my PLN friends, even though I won each and every year, in the end I came out losing. I lost opportunities to think critically, to speak my own mind, to fail and take risks and embrace the process of learning. It’s only since becoming a teacher that I am catching up alongside my students. They say that as a parent, you want your child to have a better upbringing than you had yourself. The same is true for what I want for my students.

I want my students to be makers not fakers. Read John Spencer‘s post “Seven Things That Happen When Kids Embrace a Maker Mindset” here , to understand why making and creating is so important when developing students’ character. I want these qualities to last their lifetime – not just the duration of the school year. As my title suggests, I want my students to build their character while staying true to who they are….not become a character in an everyday play for ten months to “succeed”. This isn’t a play or a game. School is a big part of their everyday life. Make it matter.