Lessons From Wilbur
Back to school after six months of leaving the brick and mortar of what I think of as school comes with a whole new learning curve. All the prepositions: at school, in school, to school have changed in proximity and distance, yet as teachers we must find a way to bridge that gap and bring learning into diverse homes across our county.
This week I plunged into online platforms to help make learning more interactive. The options are completely overwhelming. My choices are so vast, which can undermine confidence and allow for self-doubt. So, I have to stop and ask myself what does having a cartoon hand doodling my messages really tell my students and parents? This online tool is designed to make me have a more polished product, but there’s nothing that can be finished and flawless going live for the first time Monday morning. Instead of having my act together, I hope the message of being “extra” communicates the fact that I care.
This year more than ever, teachers are being challenged to demonstrate what we do best - care for our students that many of us affectionately call our kids. The disadvantages we all face are the disability of students not having proper technology or us not completely understanding what we are doing with the technology we have. It comes down to the realities that once again to properly teach, we need to embrace humility, humble ourselves, and offer ourselves as the conduit of learning through failure.
Everything in life tells us that failure is the best teacher. We learn better when we fall or make mistakes. As a professional, this is in direct conflict with the desire to present a good, strong product for delivery. But our students, my students, are going to see me and on some levels that vulnerability can be very scary. As the camera zooms in, pride is going to have to be shelved. A humble heart is the fastest way to connect with another human and that is what this school year is going to require.
I bought the little grey man in the picture, to keep me company in my physical classroom. I am naming him Wilbur in honor of one of my favorite professors at IWU, Wilbur Williams. He made the Old Testament very real. His knowledge wasn’t just a textbook, it was lived. Learning with him was more of a conversation than a lecture. Each year he took students on an archaeological dig in Israel. I always wanted to go on a dig with him. It wouldn’t have mattered if I didn’t find a single thing. That trip for me didn't happen, but the inspiration he gave in one semester has lasted a lifetime. Wilbur Williams was a great teacher, not because he espoused failure, but because he was humble.
An iconic example of how we learn through failure is if we touch a hot stove once, we won’t repeat it. Honestly as an adult, I still do that thinking I can clean that messy burner and beat the heat; if I can go fast enough I won’t get burned. For me, personally, that lesson is cliche and trite. I do fully support and believe that failure is an amazing learning curve, but I wouldn’t say it is the best teacher. It’s the transformation that happens inside when we fail that makes us learn and grow. It’s the knocking down of our pride that gives us the grace to forgive ourselves and once again stand. It is a humble heart that allows us to learn and hear the true lessons around us in our mistakes.
Monday is Day 1 of a new type of virtual school year. I have to connect, earn trust, and inspire 95 unique individuals that are all at different places in their learning journeys. God, give me grace! Wilbur, are you ready? Show me the way! Let's do this!