This Ain’t No Industrial Age Homie: Teaching In The Information Age, Part 3a: Be Like Mike And Teach Students to Be Like Mike
by Oskar Cymerman @focus2achieve
“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan
Alas, we have arrived at the first leg of the final leg of the marathon I dubbed: “This Ain’t No Industrial Age Homie!” What can I say? It’s Thursday afternoon (and will most likely be Friday tomorrow, and Saturday the day after), I have a monster headache after a full day of teaching stoichiometry and smart thinking (don’t ask), and I want to tell you something, so you can tell it to your students:
Be Like Mike and Tell ‘Em to Be Like Mike
Remember the saying: “Failure is not an option?” What a bunch of bull ordure.
See, I’m a Chicago dude, and while I live in the “Land of 10,000 (actually 11,842) Lakes” now, I grew up watching His Airness lead the Bulls to 6 NBA Championships. He claims that he missed 26 would be game winning shots, so it must be true, but somehow I only remember the ones he made. I think it’s because greatness is measured in “failure response” units. And, Jordan knew that.
He also realized that FAILURE IS THE ONLY OPTION ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS.
To learn, to correct, to gain the confidence in knowing that “stuff’s gonna be okay no matter what,” to continue to take risks, and to ultimately succeed, we need to TEACH OUR STUDENTS HOW TO FAIL.
To make failure okay, tell your students about your personal failures. Validate their feelings. It sucks when you take on something and fail at it. It’s okay to feel bad. But, it’s not okay to give up. It’s imperative to teach students how to fail and how to respond to failure. And you have to learn with them.
A student in my chemistry class, a varsity basketball player, has really been struggling recently. In my inception into the teaching cult years I would have probably brought the hammer down on, let’s call him Luke, if I saw him being constantly off task and distracted. But I learned that this kind of an approach rarely yields the desired result.
The truth is that, while I can guess why Luke is messing up in class, I cannot know for certain what is going on. And, if I just punked him, I might have completely turned him off and thus my actions would have led to a chain of events that would prevent Luke from learning chemistry. And let’s be honest here: NO ONE CAN LIVE WITHOUT CHEMISTRY. So what did I do?
Remembering the newest installment of the Star Wars series I just saw recently, I awakened the force. I channeled my inner Yoda (I know, I know – different episode, but bear with me here…), and instead of telling Luke what to do and what not to do, I simply started with my recent observations:
Me: Luke, I noticed that Da Force is not as strong with you as it used to be (Translation: I noticed you’ve been distracted and the quizzes are killing you).
Now that I had his attention I moved in for the kill.
Me: There is opportunity yet to be one with Da Force again (Or I might have said: You can retake the last quiz, but you should prepare for it to be successful).
Luke: Yeah, I wanna do that.
Me: Da Force has been strong with Jay (another young Jedi (I know, another continuity error, but what am I to do when Luke had no BFF to share his frosted flakes with? And is it a grammatical faux pas to insert a parenthesis inside a parenthesis?) and a friend sitting next to Luke, who has been acing assessments). Maybe you can help each other out.
Me: Da Force is stronger with those who help others (When you teach others you deepen your knowledge of the concept, because you have to explain it in an understandable and complete way).
Jay: (3 nods)
Me: May the force be with you.
Luke: You’re weird.
That was a slam-dunk wasn’t it? In your face apathy! Luke failed a couple of quizzes and was well on his way to land “summer school,” and maybe he will still end up there, but at least he knows that he is not doomed yet. He knows that he has options. He knows that he can yet succeed. He knows that he is not alone. He knows that there are people who believe in him.
And I believe that I have reached my word quota. I know, you hated when the Hunger Games Part 3 ended up being parts 3a and 3b, and you had to wait another stinking year for the conclusion, but rules are rules homie, so Pardon Me While I Burst Into Flames. See you next year!
Ok, so I’m lying. Part 3b is done. But I am not sure when the best time and day to post it is. Help me out if you can and comment below on what I should do. Or don’t. And sign up for my NEWSLETTER, because you can. Either way and when in doubt, use the force.