TeachCycle Mindset — Fail Forward!

Welcome back to the Master Teacher blog series, a collection of posts written by Master Teachers and organized around the key mindsets of TeachCycle, BetterLesson’s innovative professional development offering.

So far, we’ve learned how Master Teachers make their teaching “All About the Kids”, and how they “Measure Progress” in their classrooms by using small data and formative assessments.

We now move to the third key mindset of TeachCycle: Fail Forward

The TeachCycle process is predicated upon the idea that in order to improve outcomes for students, teachers must try new strategies in their classrooms. These carefully curated strategies are developed by Master Teachers and BetterLesson Coaches, and are targeted to address a specific student need. As our current TeachCycle participants can attest, new strategies can have a wonderfully transformative effect on student outcomes, classroom culture, and even a teacher’s professional outlook.

Inherent in the act of implementing a new strategy, however, is the risk that it might not go well. It could be, to use the vernacular, a lesson bomb. TeachCycle coaches support teachers to navigate the pitfalls of such strategy “failures” and learn to Fail Forward, embracing “failure” as a tremendous learning opportunity.

This week, we’ll hear from two Master Teachers who took risks to try new things. Today, Mitchell Smith recounts some of his own risks and failures, risks and failures in the scientific community at large, and the importance of using both as a model for his risk-averse high school Biology students who are too often inclined to expect perfection from themselves. Thursday, Joyce Baumann tells what happened when she took everything she knew about lesson planning, and threw it right out the window.