soxteaching: chem, baseball, stories
We only learn when we fail. I believe this to my marrow so I will state this again for emphasis. We only learn when we fail. It is therefore unfortunate that my job is wholly centered on grades at times when it could be directed towards learning. I find deep irony in the fact that for many students the purest of learning moments occurs during and immediately after an exam or test. Take test – see answer key – Doh!
The trick is to structure the class so that they aren’t afraid to make mistakes. So how do I do this without crushing the very spirit of the student? Failure means lower grades – lower grades means lower GP – lower GPA means less chance to go to college – less chance to go to college means that I am less of a person and should feel deep shame? Regardless of what I think of this cycle it does exist and rules the lives of so many.
I guess that’s one of the reasons why I love baseball so much. Success is predicated on how a player rebounds from failure and not the failure itself. Most at bats result in running to first base followed by running back to the dugout. Let’s repeat that: the default condition in baseball is running back to the dugout after swinging a bat. I am not sure it’s possible to create the same environment in the classroom but that’s what I want. I want students who aren’t afraid to fail because they aren’t afraid to try.
Heck, I have students in class right now who are afraid to write down notes during class because they might have to make alterations as I develop a concept during class. They wait for the packaged answer so that they can memorize and move on. No, I don’t want to hear that I should accept the reality that grades are important and I should contribute to the already rampant grade inflation pervasive everywhere. No, I refuse to buy into the notion that my primary job is to help students get into college. I’ll live in my little bubble because accepting that truth is too brutal to bear.
So, I want a classroom that feels more like a baseball game than a checklist to memorize. Batter up!