I just spent the past two days cleaning up mess after mess I created for myself. How many times did I screw up this weekend? Oh, let’s see…
On Friday, I had the cute idea of emailing a welcome note of excitement to my incoming students. After hitting “send,” I realized I had not one, but TWO, errors in my message. Ugh. (I’d used the wrong homophone when I invited students to take a “sneak peak” of our class website and I’d written this beauty: “Finally, there’s no way better way to launch a school year than to borrow the wisdom of John Green..”) Quick on my feet, I thought, Hey, teachable moment here. Just have the kids find my errors and throw a bonus point at anyone who gets the right answer this weekend. I dashed off a second (error-free) email. This was not, as it turned out, my best idea ever.
A few kids jumped on the offer and we had lovely exchanges. I was charmed on Saturday by their attempts to find my mistakes (some were right, some not) and had several nice e-conversations. But then the deadline passed and I started to get a few emails from students who were upset that they had missed the opportunity to grab an easy bonus point. They hadn’t checked their school emails because, why would they? It was the weekend before school starts. I wrote tender email replies, letting those students know that this was just my lighthearted attempt to acknowledge my own errors and assuring them that they’ll have many more chances for success in my class this year.
Now, this was just a minor little thing. No need to get upset about a few emails from kids who overuse the word “unfair,” right? True, but here’s the thing – my actions created a sour note to the beginning of my class for some of my students. A handful are happy, but a majority are probably bummed, thinking the deck seems stacked against them. Fair or not, their first impression of me has been negative – when that’s the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I was trying to build with the welcome email in the first place. Man, I messed up that one.
Of course, I should not have offered that stupid bonus point. If I had just said, “Hey, find my errors and send me the corrections,” I would’ve removed all of the pressure. In fact, my boneheaded bonus point move is completely contrary to my entire philosophy of the value of intrinsic motivation. Remember that? I spent all spring with the 20Time Project trying to remove the carrots and sticks I use with kids, only to revert to dangling bonus points at the launch of this new year. What the heck was I thinking?
I meet everyone tomorrow, when I’ll briefly explain myself to the full class, acknowledging that this was not my greatest idea. I’ll promise to keep trying to do better. And then we’ll move on with the day.
Unfortunately, this was not my only weekend misstep. My SmartBoard died this summer (a new part is on order, but the machine is eight years old and may not survive the brain transplant surgery), so I had to scramble to pull together a Frankenstein’s monster of abandoned and nearly dead tech pieces. I went to school on Sunday (in the midst of the email fiasco) to work on setting up my tech cart only to realize after the 20-minute drive that I’d left my classroom keys at my house. Sigh…20 minutes back home and another 20 minutes back to school again.
When I finally got into my room, I didn’t have the right adapter to connect my laptop to the LCD projector. Forty minutes and $30 later (thanks, Best Buy, for having the outdated tech accessories that teachers desperately need), I was finally able to see the light – the projector’s light.
Last night, I dreamt it was the first day of school and I had been reassigned out of English to teach…wait for it…advanced haircutting. Two administrators kept showing up and handing me little red boxes of Chinese food as my cosmetology students ran amok. I woke at 3 a.m. drenched in sweat and craving Kung Pao chicken.
You would think that a teacher about to start Year 18 would be wiser and more pulled together, yet it’s clear there’s still so much for me to learn. For now, I just keep telling myself, Tomorrow’s going to be okay…tomorrow’s going to be okay…
Teach on, everyone!