because until we hit that wall, make that mistake, get backed into a corner do we ever find out who we are and what we are made of inside.
This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend EDUCON in Philadelphia. This was a great conference and really brought about some great discussions and ideas. A post about my learning will be coming. Instead this post is about what I learned while pipes literally bust in my house back in Iowa while I was at EDUCON.
Here is a quick rundown of events that happened while I was hundreds of miles away.
1. Our furnace died the night before I left leaving our house quite cold when I departed in the morning. The house was a warm 43 degrees and after I left it would drop down to low 30’s.
2. During the day the furnace company had to order a new furnace that could not be installed until the next day. My wife did not have to have a sub that day due to school being cancelled due to below zero temps. However, this made things much more difficult. After setting up heaters and whatnot we prayed for no frozen pipes. Well the pipes froze and one shot through my ceiling along with water!
3. She ended up at a friends house, but my 2 year old was confused and not too happy. The next day they had to come back into town to get ready for school and then my wife had to travel back to school. Not a good start to the morning. Luckily, her father came down to be at the house while the new furnace was installed.
4. Pipes did freeze and after the house started to warm up one pipe burst in my Nerd Cave(office) leaving some nice holes in my ceiling and a few wet items. At least we had heat right?
5. The new furnace quits working when my wife returns home bringing a tech back out. A few hours later it goes out again in which we find out they installed it wrong! Now this is taking place around 10:30 at night and they were able to rig it to stay on until the next day when it could be fixed properly.
6. We are back with heat, but my son gets sick again and is puking all night
7. Heat finally returns and my son starts to feel better.
8. I return to a wife not too happy with my departure and a house that needs some work.
So, why do I share all of this? Because my wife is a rockstar who endured and made it out alive and made things right. I felt helpless being away, but she battled on. She is strong willed and has a strong mind. She is much stronger than I will ever be. Through her three days of hell a lesson of learning came to light.
We have to endure the worst to get to the best. When I think about life and/or education this is so true. We are often afraid of failure, mistakes, things going wrong, getting dirty, and falling down to get back up. When those dark moments happen we have to remove all the bullcrap we have built up around ourselves, strip away the things that are not necessary and move forward. These events force us to get to the core of who we are and what we can do. Call it grit, determination, strength, etc. It does not matter the word, but what matters is the action that occurs when faced with an obstacle(s).
My wife was stressed along with all the emotions that come with things breaking down. While in the moment it sucks, the end results are something quite powerful. We were reminded through discussion that even though things were terrible we still have our health, our family, and a network of people who are there to help.
I had so many amazing people reach out to help us when I posted on Facebook. My father in law was there through it all to help. Amanda went to a friends house who helped with everything. We were reminded of what is important in life – friends, family, and support(and heat!).
In education this very thing holds true. I think that at times we need to push students to the brink. We need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone as educators and be a lifelong learner. We need to immerse ourselves in setback, failures, mistakes, and things going wrong because that is when the learning takes place. That is when our communities and networks strengthen. We find out what true teamwork and collaboration is all about.
I am not saying to remove heat from a building to see how kids respond. BUT, I know that learning cannot be fun all the time. We need to set up classrooms where failures will happen and mistakes will be made. When those events happen we need that very classroom to have an atmosphere of help, collaboration, and real time feedback to help those students and teachers rise from the occasion. It gives us reason to build our networks and to realize we need networks of various types depending on the situation. We need a classroom educator who will allow a student to make an error and yet learn from it to earn a grade that is reflective of the learning process. How many classrooms assess every assignment and task and leave no room for error in a world where grades to rule everything?
My point to be made in this post is that setbacks are okay. They suck terribly in the moment, but we find out what we can actually achieve when that setback or deadline is on the horizon. This is where we have no choice but to move forward.
Now the key question is how many educators have an environment built for success and failures? I would love to hear from you.
In terms of my house the heat is back on. We now have a nice stack of bills coming, but that is a small price to pay as things could always be much worse. Being in Philadelphia I saw a few things that made me realize that despite my wife not being very happy with me being gone we are still quite blessed.
In terms of education we need to reflect to see if what we preach as educators is what we are really assessing in the classroom. Or are we in a do as I say, not as I do mode? If we want students to challenge themselves and their learning, then when was the last time the teacher did the same? And then shared that experience with the student? Those are some questions that need to be discussed.