Everything worth doing requires a learning curve and a willingness to take criticism, analyze criticism, and incorporate the comments that are relevant into how we do things so we can get better. 

Failure is one-third of success: we have to fail before we can know what’s really required. Natural talent or a willingness to learn is one-third of success: everyone has something to teach us, but sometimes we are too wrapped up in ourselves to notice and that means the lessons get harder and the teachers get meaner and success is further away. The last third of success is work ethic: we have to be willing to actually work for the things we want.

Nothing is easy in life. Nothing is really meant to be easy. We need the balance between good and bad to remember to work for what we truly want. I spend my time planning, learning, updating the what and the why and the how of my lessons and units. I am not one of the truly admirable teachers who sacrifice family time, personal time, or reading time getting things graded for the next day. I do read everything my student turn in which means that I sometimes take too long to return work, because reasons. I’m still figuring out the right balance between necessary practice for my students, required assignments for the administration, and reasonable rates of return (which I would’ve thought would be finely tuned by now). When I finally achieve that magical balance I’m expecting a week turn around for most assignments and it’s what I work toward each semester (someday I’ll get there).

I don’t want to make a difference for one kid. I want to make a difference for all of them, but 100% is unachievable. I teach my students to analyze information (and the sources of information). I teach my students how to incorporate new skills and ideas into their worldview. I want them to be critical thinkers and eclectic learners. I want them to want to challenge themselves (as unrealistic as that may be). I can offer practice, model skill sets, fight to keep things relevant, and change with the times, but I can’t force anyone to learn and my teaching style (for some students my personality) can be a stumbling block. It’s not something anyone wants to think too much about—reflection and honesty are so important to growth even though they are sometimes hard to acknowledge.

For years I’ve wanted to incorporate my version of commonplace books into the projects my students produce. My first round last year was more successful than I would have thought and my second round will be fun to look through and grade next week. They are part journal, part scrapbook. I hope my students will use their commonplace books as an ongoing record of what huge events and small epiphanies shape their lives.

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