Epic Fails: A lesson from Michael Strembinsky School

Recently, I had the chance to visit Michael Strembitsky School.  Something that stood out for me was their celebration of their “Epic Fails”.  For the past 2 years and a bit, their school has been on a journey to make Inspiring Education come to life.  There is a focus on cross curricular planning and inquiry based learning at their school.  They are the first to admit that it is not perfect and failing is where their best learning occurs.  Stories of failed projects involving grade 5’s sewing their own winter clothing were shared.  Each and every failure teaches them something.  They celebrate their failures as a staff and keep moving forward!  As a teacher that tends to be an early adopter this was encouraging to see.  Their admin team expects and supports their faculty as they take risks and try new things.

Is this the culture of your classroom or your school?  With the curriculum redesign on the horizon, teachers may need to make changes to the way they have always taught.  This is not an easy thing to do.  They may need to take risks and that can be uncomfortable.  Over the past 2 years, I have been thinking more deeply about my own teaching practice.  I believe that students need to have choice in their learning and how they demonstrate their learning.  However, my summative assessments did not always match this.  Many times at the end of a unit I would give a written test.  Why did I do this?  I felt like I had to.  There was a feeling of pressure from parents and other teachers to give tests the way we always have.  I did not I feel like I could take a risk and not give a test.  Not that I asked my admin or discussed this with my colleagues.  Maybe I should have asked these questions, but I did not.  It wasn’t that I did not feel supported by admin but I guess the freedom to fail was not as blatant.  Our failures were not shared, celebrated and reflected on as a staff.

But what if they were?  What would you do differently? If you were brave enough to try one new thing in your teaching practice this year, what would it be?  What if it fails?  What is the worst that could happen?  What if your students took more risks in their learning?  What would they accomplish?  If they fail would it be the end of the world?  Or would they learn from that failure and keep moving forward?

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