Mistakes were made.

Welcome to 2009, a brand new year with new possibilities, new opportunities, new experiences, and the same old mistakes.

And more often than not, all of those things happen at the same time.

I have a habit of mine.  A bad habit, if you will.  A deep, dark secret that will no doubt haunt me as I’m now casting it out amongst the sea of the interwebs.

Sometimes I expect too much from my students.

I’ll take a moment for all of you to let that sink in and then collectively gasp at that realization.  It’s truly shocking, isn’t it?

Now this is not an every day occurance, mind you.  While I’ll often have high expectations for my students, they tend to rise up and meet those goals.  It’s amazing what kids can do if you just give them the opportunity.  However, every practice has a chance of failure.

Case in point: Yesterday I took a 6th grade class to the computer lab to make ads for a fictional recording studio.  The whole lesson was meant to build upon their persuasive writing lessons in language arts.  I’ve done similar lessons in the past, but always in the classroom.  Always with the more “traditional” art supplies.  Markers, crayons, colored pencils, those media are familiar territory to students.

Computers are … less so.  Granted, students can learn new technology quite fast when given the opportunity, but there is a limit to that speed, and yesterday I pushed it.  While I’m certain every student in that room was capable of doing everything I wanted, most could not do it in the time I was able to provide.  There were just too many new concepts to fit into too short a time.

Good work was done (and is still being done, from what the 6th grade teacher has told me), but we didn’t even get to upload our pictures to the wiki as I had originally planned.

So … what do you do when you find yourself in a situation like this?  Short term, cut like crazy.  decide what elements need to be covered right then and leave the rest out.  If it’s something you can continue later, save it for later.  If you know you just won’t have the time to revisit it, make the best of what can be done in the time you have.

Long term, reevaluate.  Not just the lesson, but the media used and the genre of that lesson as well.  With that class, I shouldn’t have used SUMO Paint.  Don’t get me wrong, SUMO Paint is awesome – but it was too much “new” in not enough time.  They’d just finished a PowerPoint project.  Having them build the ad on a single slide would have meant spending a lot less time on how it’s done so I could focus more on why we were doing it.

I’ll admit, in this case my bias against the ubiquitous nature of PowerPoint got the better of me when planning the lesson.  I wanted to show them something new and novel, and as a result I cost them valuable project time.

Was the lesson a loss?  No.  Even though we didn’t do every step I wanted to cover, they managed to explore an unfamiliar media (one of the objectives of my state’s art curriculum) and learn more about how advertisements grab your attention in order to persuade you (tying in with the state’s language arts curriculum).

Mistakes were made, but we learned from them.

And next time, it will be better.

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