I have an invigorating day job which gives me the chance to make an impact on the education of about 500 middle school students and the staff of an entire building. I get to play with technology and students in project based learning, research and find answers to questions I didn’t even think to ask the day before, and build relationships which help learning matter.
I’m an instructional technology coach at a middle school. So my goal each day is to help teachers use technology successfully in their curriculum so that our students get a meaningful education in 21st century digital literacy. I believe in the goals of my job, I believe in the teachers I work with, and every day I get to see students learn and gain skills which help push human knowledge further.
I have to admit, this is the most challenging job I’ve ever had. I not only learn new things each day, but my job is to learn the new things well enough to communicate the learning to another adult who can then communicate the learning to a room full of 13 year olds. It’s probably a little easier than herding cats, but, well, it may be one of the most intellectually, socially, and organizationally challenging roles I’ve ever taken on.
Have I mentioned I have a 4 year old, a 14 week old, and a first book in the womb? (Ok, the book is not really in the “womb”, but with the publisher getting edits and a book cover…)
In education we talk about “the zone of proximal development”, or an appropriate challenge level outside of the students’ current comfort zone enough to produce growth, but not far enough outside to produce frustration. I’m living on the edge of my zone of proximal development. Each day is a new challenge, a new skill to acquire, a new structure to manage successfully in terms of time, human behavior and network capabilities. It’s hard.
And I love it.
Today I had my first day of introducing the entire 7th grade to our career exploration module website. It was hard. Logistically, I ran across more than one thing I didn’t expect. I tried a mail merge mass email for usernames only to discover Outlook would block my daily email count before all 7th graders were sent an email. I didn’t anticipate some of the questions I would get from 7th grade boys. I didn’t logistically think about the noise level in a cafeteria when the cleaning machines are near. I didn’t move fast enough to get through the curriculum to get the Chromebooks back in the cart nicely enough. I could have prepared the other adults in the room in better ways to make their day easier. I could have made sure the Chromebooks were in the right spot so the next group to use the devices didn’t have disruption (well, I could have done that if I didn’t have another task that I thought necessary before 3:40).
I failed at a few things today, or at least fumbled through them. Publically. Sometimes that is a little hard to swallow. I like my pride.
But that’s how I know I’m learning – learning on a level so quick and worthwhile that I sometimes experience failure.
As an English teacher for six years, that’s exactly where I wanted my kids: on the edge of their comfort level where, maybe even for the first time, they get to where they feel something is truly hard for them, where they experience something that feels like failure.
You see, my failures today, they aren’t an end. I get to try something very similar tomorrow. My failures today are part of a process, a process of preparing a school building for a 1:1 device initiative that hopefully changes the way we do education. My failures are part of the process in yes, me gaining skill and knowledge in technology, but more importantly in me gaining skill in communication and wisdom to make my knoweldge matter for impact.
I took a destress hot shower an hour after work. I sighed heavy and maybe, just maybe, came close to a tear (I’d never admit it if I did cry). But here is what I did – I publicly admitted to a hard day, admitted that I failed, and I asked my support group for an emotional boost.
My email signature for all of last year and the first semester of this one included this logo:
You see, I grew up loving a sport where if I got a hit 3 out of 10 times I was succeeding. I get a hit at least 3 out of 10 times as an instructional technology coach. And – and I get the joy of failure. I get the daily invigoration of challenge. I get to dance on the edge of my zone of proximal development and expand my boundaries every day. I turn 30 in 2 months. I’ve never learned as much professionally as I have this year. I’ve never had so much fun at work.
So I failed a few times today. So I could have done better. Good. I will do better. I will learn. I will revel in a challenge that my drive and abilities let me earn the privilege to take on.
Have a difficult task for me? Bring it on. I’m empower the education of a whole building of children. I’m willing to fail for that.
Thanks to all the people who care about me enough to support me in my growth and to my coworkers for being patient as I try to create a meaningful impact through cooperation and persistence. We are going to do good things together!