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Problems that Lead to Growth

Problems that leads to growth

You learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. This is definitely a saying that I am finding to be true. Last week I taught a physical education lesson to a grade ¾ class that didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. The students came in and followed their normal routine and then I wanted to teach them two games that I recently learned at teacher’s convention. I started out by making sure I had all attention on me, explained the game, asked for any questions and cold called on a few students to check for understanding. We began to play the game and it went well for all but one boy that the teacher noticed was disengaged in the activity. I did not notice as I was avoiding and throwing dodge balls as the rest of the class enjoying the game.

I stopped the game and called the students back in to explain the next game. The game had a lot of strategy and rules to follow and had a number of students asking for clarification. I thought that it would just be best if we started the game and then work out the issues as we played. As we started the first round one of the boys who didn’t understand the rules went out of the game as he failed to tag someone. He did not understand why and was overwhelmed with the instruction and ambiguousness of the game. There was an outburst at that time and the boy was removed so he could calm down and discusses the situation by the teacher and the EA. I continued to play the game explaining the rules as we played and getting into the strategy as we progressed. In the end the students had a lot of fun and I thought it was a successful lesson minus the one outburst. That all changed when the teacher approached me and started asking questions.

As a teacher of 20 plus years and a learning coach I found myself a little defensive as the teacher started asking why I didn’t give greater clarification at the beginning of the game so to avoid the outburst that occurred. I tried to explain that sometimes it is best to learn by doing but that didn’t feel right. I went back and reflected on my practice and came up with this:

Things I would have done differently.

  1. Needed a visual to put rules on and to explain games
  2. Check for understanding…bad one to miss
  3. Those that don’t understand can sit and watch the game and then bring them in to restart.
  4. Have established start and go signals…you have those but I needed to either use yours or tell them new ones.
  5. Had some closure but could have used more, gone over games and why we do them.
  6. Dynamite is warm up game and plunger is cooperation and teamwork…I should let kids know why they are doing activities or what I am looking for in PE. For ex. if I see people getting hit and not going out. (good time for a class conversation) Having said that I only saw one person get hit and not go out. I only saw one because it affected me. Your kids are generally pretty and didn’t complain when the ref made a call which does happen often if the culture isn’t established
  7. As for the little guy…maybe he needs to know what is happening in advance, could review at end of class what is happening the next class. Could check for understanding as a group and then pull him aside so he understands? Give him visuals? Give him a time out area he can go to or access EA when he is feeling overwhelmed or confused? Definitely for him three new games and not knowing what was going on was too much.

After further discussion with the teacher we agreed that some of the preventative measures could be put in place to support this student and all of the class. Through my mistakes we were able to make positive changes to improve practice. My mistakes helped me think about improving my practice and provided the teacher with ways to help her students. Success through failure.


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  • dlander says:

    Your professional learning journey this year has been incredible, James, and what a great ‘unintended’ learning experience this turned out to be! It takes a lot of courage and a real growth mindset to reflect on and learn from our mistakes or oversights- so proud of the work you’re doing!

    March 16, 2015 at 9:26 pm
  • pwierstra says:

    James I really connect with your reflection in this post. How powerful that you have now created a list, a list that can become a checklist in the planning stage that you can share with your colleagues.
    It is so true that our powerful learning often is a result of a mistake or an oversight.

    February 27, 2015 at 10:33 am

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