Have you ever tried a new idea in your class and it doesn’t goes as planned? You put a lot of effort into planning it but then it’s a mess. It stinks! You probably think it was a complete and utter failure; maybe you even vow you never do that again. But what if instead of throwing your hands up and admitting defeat, you decided to use this potential failure as a learning opportunity to improve what went wrong?
It’s not easy to take what seems like a failure and learn from it, but a failure is only a failure if you don’t learn from it. You might even say something similar to your students, yet do you actually model it for them? This school year be willing to push yourself to take these “failures” and let them make you a better teacher.
If you aren’t sure where to start, here’s my 5 step method to taking a potential failure and turning it around. While I describe using this from a teacher perspective, it can be used for students and personal situations. I have also included a printable version with space to write below each step.
5 Steps To Turn Failure Into A Learning Opportunity
Step 1: Reflect
Before you can learn from your mistakes, you need to figure out what went wrong, but also what went well. Reflect on the lesson or part of the lesson that felt like a failure as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more time your mind has to create it’s own story and forget what really happened. Was it the content of the lesson? Maybe it was the presentation or the length? Really sit down and think about it.
Optional: Ask for feedback from students. If your students are old enough and mature enough to give you constructive feedback, ask them to as an exit ticket that day or as a do now or bell ringer the next day. Don’t wait too long or students might forget important details.
Step 2: Brainstorm Solutions
Once you’ve reflected, start brainstorming solutions based on what you pointed out as being the failing areas of the lesson. This part might take a little longer and doesn’t need to be right away. Sometimes in order to come up with a good solution or fix to the issue you need to step away for a second. Try to come up with 2-3 possible solutions. You may have to test out a few before you find the best one.
If you are struggling to figure out solutions, I recommend talking to a colleague about the situations and asking for advice. This can be a collaborative step if you feel stuck.
Step 3: Choose a Solution and Plan to Use It
Now that you have a few possible solutions, decide which you want to try first and then plan for the new lesson. Really think about what you identified as going wrong in you reflection, and make sure the solution address those areas.
Step 4: Try Again
This is the hard part; trying again. Remember to be optimistic about the outcome with this new solution. If you go into the lesson feeling negative, most likely you’ll get negative results.
Step 5: Debrief
After you tried again with your solution, debrief about what went well and how you felt about the solution you tried. Be willing to return to step 3 and try another solution you came up with if you still feel like it wasn’t great. This is a learning process and takes time to find the right way.