Are You Paralyzed when Plans go Awry?

“If Plan A didn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters.  Stay cool!”  - Unknown
When we plan for our students, class, an assessment or the day, we seldom build in ideas for those times when things will not work out.  The rule of thumb suggests that you must plan in order to succeed, but when your plan leads you to failure, what is your next option?  It’s to make another plan!  Educators are tasked with having the week planned out and then taking the opportunity to go through the plans and visualize what may go right or wrong.  I encourage you to really look at your history of planning and interrogate how many times you anticipated this question.  “What could go wrong?”

I am reminded of my first year as a teacher when many things went wrong.  Lesson plans didn’t last for the amount of time I planned.  Mini lessons went awry in a split second and a small conversation with a student turned into an off track opportunity.  Many times we look at a few of these instances as either a lesson in flexibility or a teachable moment, but we must consider the alternative.  Was an alternate plan in place? 
I like the idea of being able to morph into a different plan if the first, second, third, or fourth plan doesn’t pan out, but wouldn’t it be great to have those plans in place already?  If you plan for all the possibilities, you have scenarios that outlast Plan A.  Let’s continue to have a solid plan in place, but that solid plan doesn’t have to be the only plan. 

Imagine the possibilities of life when you have a backup for the backup.  My goal for the last quarter of this year is to begin creating built in parachute plans.  I want to be prepared for possibilities, not paralyzed by them.  

Success and Progress are Not Synonymous!

Progress exists when hard work is exhibited.  This is a notion that many feel sums up school and education as a whole.  When we encounter students working hard, we assume that they are making progress.  There are many factors that are not considered in this equation.  Progress is not merely experienced by doing, it is experienced by making mistakes when doing. 

When you learn a new concept and you practice it, you achieve the desired goal, familiarity.  Although familiarity is comforting as a student, it doesn’t create a space for learning more.  It enhances a sense of security in knowing that you are content with maintaining.  If you begin to step outside of your comfort zone and try new experiences, make mistakes and keep trying, you will eventually make progress.  I didn’t say you will eventually succeed.  Many educators equate success and progress.  They are not synonymous and cannot be considered as such. 

Success is the act of getting it right, but progress is the act of getting better.   Our students may not succeed in every endeavor that they accomplish, but their ability to continue working at it relies on our consistent encouragement and reassurance that their mistakes will create opportunities for more progress. 

When we teach our students that they will succeed always, we teach them that their failures are fatal flaws.  This is simply not true.  Our students must be encouraged to continue trying.  This attitude fosters an atmosphere of continued progress and inspires the ability to learn in a “risk” free environment.  

If We Feed them Fear, It will Grow…

May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. Nelson Mandela

When we encourage our students, we encourage them to try.  We do this because we understand that the only thing holding them back is fear.  As we approach the last quarter of the year, we have some established fears as well.  As educators we walk into the beginning of the year full of possibilities about what our students will become and how much they will grow.  As we approach the end, our fears or insecurities establish roots because we realize that the power shifts.  The responsibility is now on the students to show what they have learned and as the facilitators, we must pull back and allow them to demonstrate that knowledge. 

Our choices as educators really take root in our students.  If we elected to give them wings and let them fly, it is now that they will fly.  If we have clipped their wings in an effort to keep them close to home, they will wait for our cues. 

Although each method is flawed, there are opportunities to create a well-rounded student and those opportunities are still present.  There is time to allow your choices as an educator to reflect a sense of hope in protecting the process of learning.  Do not rely on a spirit of fear that the alternative is possible.  Whatever we feed will grow in abundance.  Feed your students hopes and encourage them to experience all aspects of learning.  Allow them to grow!  Its their time

Create an Atmosphere of Hope!

When you give people an education, you give them hope.  This is not an adage, but a fact.  You may impart many things on your students, but the most important aspect of your calling as an educator is to instill in your students the love of learning.  This love of learning will eventually blossom into an appreciation for the acquisition of knowledge. When students acquire knowledge or the ability to solve problems, they emerge as a new being, one that has hope.  This hope affords students the opportunity to walk into any situation understanding that the difference between their past and their future is the ability to figure out how to change their circumstances. 
Once hope enters any situation, there is a renewed opportunity to excel.  When we teach our students…really teach our students how to think, we put them in a situation to break cycles and see opportunities with a different perspective.  I am not sure how often teachers realize that the only thing that separates students from opportunities is their ability to confront and conquer their fears.  When we teach without ceasing, we allow our students to understand that their fears can be eliminated. 

As we walk into the fourth quarter of this school year, it is imperative to understand that we are giving our students an immeasurable tool…hope!  When you educate a child you give them more than skills and problem solving abilities, you create an atmosphere of hope in their minds.  Teach to create human beings that possess the ability to change situations.  Teach with the intent to create an atmosphere of hope each day!