Sucking at Something is The First Step To Becoming Sorta Good At Something

Excellent quote from my favourite cartoon dog.

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As the term really gets into swing, one of the things I seem to be repeating in every class is that I don’t mind if they hand me a piece of coding that doesn’t work. What I want to see is that they’ve created it, rewritten it, shouted at it, looked on the Internet and tried everything then handed it to me with wild hair as they mutter about how much they hate the program. Because you know what? That’s what programmers do. We get hold of a problem and roll it around in our heads like a insanity ball that eats away at our souls until BINGO! We get it. Then the joy can commence.

Getting stuff wrong isn’t bad. Repeatedly sucking isn’t the goal. The idea is to suck a little bit less each time until you’re basically bloody awesome. But that takes practice.

I’ve met a few students who got the bug early and made it their mission to practice at every given opportunity. I love the lunchtimes when they bounce into the classroom to show me their latest ‘thing’, all sorts of weirdness from nods to Pokemon to 8 bit music programs, to card games. Every one of these came from them taking it on themselves to bend their heads around the code. All I did was show them the yellow brick road – they followed it. I’m stupidly proud of them.

The same applies to how I see my teaching ability. The more I do this, the less I suck. I’m not scared of trying some new stuff this year, because if I suck at something to start off with, it’s just the first step to being sorta good at it. And so far we’ve been in the zone.

What time is it? Adventure Time!!

Thanks Jake.

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Blasts from the past

Over the summer I had a crisis of confidence. I’d just agreed to take over as head of computer science and when the exam results hit, one particular set knocked me sideways.

There’s a lot recently about teaching kids to be resilient and stand up to failure, pick themselves up and carry on. Sometimes the teachers could do with those pep talks too. For a good few weeks there I felt awful. What had I done wrong? I’d put my heart and soul into that course & I’d failed. Or rather they hadn’t got the results that we had hoped for, but that became one and the same. I mused for a while about whether I was actually the teacher I thought I was. Should I walk away? I think I owed it to my students to think really hard about this. If I wasn’t up to it, then I shouldn’t be doing this. But, after a good mental arse kicking I picked my self pitying arse back up off the floor and started on an action plan to get things back on track. School started back and the more I’ve been back in the classroom, the more positive I’ve felt.

So resilience is hugely important. It’s accepting that I didn’t get it right, but I can’t take the exam for them. I’m just the one leading them to water. I will continue to work twenty times harder than they do on their exam preparation, stalk the corridors demanding coursework when they “forget” it, email & tweet them things that they might find interesting (ok, I’m living in denial there) and make such awful jokes in the classroom that they cringe for me. I will find a way to make this work.

Then I received a message from a past student… from a particular class that it broke my heart to leave them when I moved on. Timing there wasn’t great – just one more year would’ve seen them through (but would’ve probably finished me off). That class probably taught me more about teaching than I taught them about computing. Never before, or since have I had a denary – hexadecimal conversion showdown.

That message restored my faith in what I do. It reminded me that this isn’t about that one day in August where a piece of paper determines their fate. It’s about making a difference to an actual person, not a grade. It’s about knowing that this isn’t just a job – these are kids, and actually it’s ok to think they’re amazing (generally, because they are). It’s not a bad thing to feel like a parent seeing their child ride a bike for the first time when you see them get that lightbulb moment. Investing emotionally is ok. It means you care. It also means that when things don’t go so well, you grieve alongside them.

The difference is that I’m the grown up. So whilst I’m all swan at the top, the legs are furiously paddling under the surface.

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Day 1 – Let The Madness Commence!

First day of term. I went to bed with end of holiday butterflies in my tummy and woke every 30 minutes in a don’t miss the alarm panic. Why? Today The Children came back…

5.50am Alarm goes off. Arm flies out of bed. Hit snooze.

5.55am Alarm goes off. Urgh. No. Snooze.

6am Alarm goes off. You’re not going away are you? Get up.

Some blur between 6am and 7.15am inhale coffee. Lay out newly labelled uniform for the girls and attempt conversation over “breakfast” (a yogurt and more coffee). Conversation fail. I can’t discuss the finer points of who chewing loudest. I just can’t. Plait girls hair. Realise I haven’t actually brushed mine yet. Shit shit shit.

7.30am run out the door in new shoes and posh work clothes. Run isn’t quite the right word. Walking a bit like Tina Turner as I’ve been in flip flops for 6 weeks. Can’t actually remember how to walk in heels. Arse.

To work!

Emails emails… Hall duty & greeting all the kids (are they getting taller or am I shrinking?). Collect kids planners and register. Feeling organised. We can do this!

Tutor time. Feeling a bit sad that I’m missing seeing my girls going into school. Cheered up massively by happy & genuine greetings from my form. Seriously, proper “Morning Miss!” type stuff from year 10s! These teenagers don’t conform to the stereotype. I love them.

The next 5 hours is a blur of welcome back lessons in which we hit the ground running rather than ease them in. I’m back in The Zone. There was a sandwich in there somewhere.

3.30pm It’s all gone quiet. Suddenly realise that my feet REALLY hurt (bad new shoes) & my throat is sore. Standard stuff.

Update the links on my scheme of work to the new folders, answer a few more emails & talk to some colleagues who have inherited my classes. Print out the resources for tomorrow’s lessons… Last minute parent email pops up. Better to leave without it hanging.

Time check. 5.30pm… Kids home on 30 minutes… Drive home 30 minutes… Shit shit…

7pm order pizza.

7.30pm Answer homework question emails. Bless them. If they’re keen, I’m not going to ignore them. Update blog with a post reflecting on day. Actually, after all that stressing over exam results and planning in August, today was a remarkably good day. Mainly because the children came back.