Tip #5: Do Not Be Afraid of Failure

As a teacher you hear many ideas. You travel to conferences and listen to speakers, engage in professional reading and workshops, and attend faculty meetings. Some of those new ideas are things you know won’t work in your situation or don’t apply to you, others are things you are already doing, and then there are those that sound wonderful and you’d love to try but doubt will work. I’d like to encourage you to try. Do not be afraid of failure.

Tip # 5:  Do not be afraid of failure     

When visiting schools and talking to students, this is a tip that I always share. It’s an attitude that is essential for writers. I do not know of an author who wasn’t rejected before being published.

Failure is part of the journey leading to success. There are countless examples of this in life. It is important that we help our students understand this and encourage them to set high goals and work hard to attain their dreams. It is also important that we model this by trying new ideas, even if we’re afraid it might not work.

Believe me, I’ve had my fair share of failures. But I’ve always learned from them. I remember laminating large-size construction paper in an attempt to create homemade white boards for my students to use during math class. I distributed cups of water and paper towels to use as erasers and had high hopes for a class where my students would be standing and sharing a variety of strategies when solving different problems. It was a disaster—and it was during one of my formal observations! I was distraught, but I was fortunate to have a principal who helped me recognize what was most important—I was trying, and because of that she knew I’d eventually make it work. Indeed my early failures ultimately helped me to create the math classroom I envisioned—just not with homemade white boards.

You never know where a new idea will take you. I remember reading Carl Anderson’s book, How’s It Going? (a book I highly recommend). Essentially, Anderson shows us that the goal of the writing conference should be to help the writer, not the writing. And you help the writer by teaching him or her to think like a writer and use strategies that real writers use that will help the student forevermore, long after your conference. I bought into Anderson’s idea wholeheartedly, but how do you teach these strategies if you don’t know them? I didn’t know if I could do it, but I started writing more and paying attention to my writing so I could try to better help my students (my writers) during our conferences.  And guess what?  Not only was I able to help my students, but that writing was the early inspiration that started me on the path leading to my first Mr. Terupt novel.

So be brave. Take one—just one—of those ideas you’ve heard about that you liked the sounds of but haven’t yet tried, and do it. Maybe you want to incorporate a rubric for the writing process (Teaching Tip #1 can help with that), or maybe you have a project you want to implement (Teaching Tip #3 can help with that), or maybe there is a new book you want to use with your students. Whatever it is, go for it. And do not be afraid of failure.

To be fair, I’ve challenged myself to do the same. Though it scared me, I recently joined Twitter. And I’m happy to report, it has been going well.


I’d love to hear from you if you find Mr. Terupt’s tips helpful or if you have additional thoughts or questions.  You can email me at rbuyea@robbuyea.com.

You can visit me at www.robbuyea.com.  Look for tip #6 to be posted on Monday, December 7th.

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