(Editor’s note: This piece was originally published as part of the now long-gone Carnival of Journalism. Each month, journalists and educators were to write about a topic. The topic of that month was failure. I took it in a direction toward education, and the sentiments still fit four years later. I’m still reinventing my classes, trying new things, and I still get excited when every new class begins.)
I’ve had some personal and professional failures over the years, many of which have been deep and wrenching. But I want to focus on one failure which happens frequently.
I just turned in final grades for this semester, and the concept of failure is real at the moment. It is at the end of every 15 weeks in the university system. Every semester, I deliver some grades that are, shall we say, less than optimal.
And in some way, each of those less-than-optimal grades I view as a failure on my part as a teacher. There are students who get it, who do great work in classes. Others never seem to grasp concepts, techniques, technology, etc. or they just decide to stop coming to class.
I know, deep down, that there is only so much an instructor can do, and the rest is up to the student. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deliver those grades. Maybe it does for some people, but not for me.
At heart, I want all my students to succeed in the classes I teach. I love journalism and “multimedia” or whatever we’re calling it now, and I want them to love it too — or at least like it enough to do well in my classes.
As well, I have no personal animosity to students. I wish them the best in their endeavors, because I would like the same were I in their shoes.
And so every semester, I look over the grades, the schedule, the professor evaluations, the equipment, and I try to figure out different ways to tackle the subject matter, to spend more time one-on-one, to smile more; anything to find a way to connect with those students.
This fall will be my 11th year teaching collegiate journalism classes, and I still feel the need to reinvent my courses constantly. And that’s the lesson from this failure: Even if you think you have things down, there’s always a time to look back, evaluate, and try things differently.
I tell students that the beauty of college is that every 15 weeks you get a chance to start over with a clean slate — new subjects, new instructors, etc. Nobody in history 101 cares if you didn’t measure up in poli sci 101.
And each semester is a fresh chance for a teacher to start the class with a clean slate as well. It’s part of what keeps me from despairing over these small failures.
Image via Wikipedia
Originally published at collegemediainnovation.wordpress.com on May 6, 2011.