Embracing Failure: A Guest Post

The following post is written by Benjamin Regonini, my boyfriend and most recent hire to the Minarets Social Science Department. After working for two and half years at a middle school, he joined the Minarets family in the middle of January. This is his debut as a blogger and below are his reflections of his first semester at Minarets:

Failure is something that is not often praised in today’s society, let alone the classroom. Yet, failure is essential in the learning process not just for students but for educators, students, businesses and even parenting. I was a middle school social science and AVID teacher for the past three years and I learned a lot about how to deal with and teach the maniacal and hormonal amalgamations that middle schoolers are. Half way through this past year, I applied for and was offered the position as a social science teacher at a high school. With much deliberation, as the middle school I was at was my first full time teaching position, I decided to accept the position at the new school. I came in with the expectation that there would not be much difference between middle and high school, just content and maturity level of the students. Needless to say, I was wrong.

My first day at the new school was an eye opening experience for sure; the new school is basically paperless with all work done on macbooks and ,basically a fully tech integrated school which my previous school was just starting to delve into. The dynamic of the school; population, culture, maturity, administration, regiment, heck it was all a 180 degree turn from what I was used to. Now with all of this change, it felt like there were ample avenues of failure for myself around each corner but I felt like I did a decent job when reflecting on it now. One of my biggest “failures” was realizing that this school was a project based school, meaning that students would research, compile, and present information, presentations, projects etc. in a myriad of ways. I was used to keeping middle schooler’s pinball minds occupied and focused for 15 minutes before changing activities 4-5 times in a class period. Here the students were able to finish the 4-5 activities I had for 1 period in about half the time it would have taken my middle schoolers to complete the comparable amount of work. Not only that but some students asked about details in the material which they themselves went off to research on their own while others worked on assignments/ material from other classes, some went on to check grades or send emails to teachers, and just simply came to talk with me about other historical subjects.

Needless to say, I felt I had completely failed them as a teacher. How the heck did they finish the same amount of work in half the time as my middle schoolers, then flawlessly transition to another task and even a third without my guidance as the sole adult in the room who could either have a good lesson or somehow cause the destruction of the school in a 45 minute period? Then it hit me, I’ve never encountered or taught this “brand” of student before. Even the students were able to easily pick up on it, many of them saying 'you’re one of the strict teachers, aren’t you?' or one student asking me a question for another because she was kind of afraid of me.  That bothered me all that week, was I a bad teacher? All of my middle schoolers were so upset to see me go so I had to be doing something right, right? Am I really a mean person at heart? I know I can be sarcastic at times but to hear that a student was afraid to ask a question? It was then I knew I had failed. Not failed as a teacher or as a human being, but I had failed to adapt to my new fish tank.

I was used to having to be the biggest baddest fish in the tank because, if you have ever taught middle school, you have to be. Many middle schoolers need that straight edge guidance in order to help them learn, retain, and practice any information they receive. Here at the high school the culture, and many more things as mentioned earlier, was completely different and they were used to the freedom of using their time wisely and effectively in the classroom without me having to loom behind them like the grim reaper. My version of the grim reaper holds lunch detention slips or parent’s contact information, which for middle schoolers might as well be a death sentence anyway.

The author of the post, Benjamin Regonini. 
To summarize, no matter what grade, subject, school, or fish tank you find yourself in, be prepared to fail. It happens to all of us both in big and small ways but it helps us grow much like it helps our students grow. Even only having one semester at my new school has changed and opened my mind more as a teacher than I thought possible. I have an awesome rapport with my students, the classes I am teaching next year have had me thinking alI summer on how I am going to teach them, and so many of my kids this upcoming year are taking a class because they found out that I will be the teacher. Not to gloat, but with the amount of my own failures I had over the past semester and the positive responses I have gotten from my students, I say bring on the failures, I am ready for them.


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