The Lesson That Failed

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

So this little post is about the lesson that failed. It is also a little bit about building rapport with students.

Recently, we have been learning about scientific method. My lessons are pretty streamlined- notes, activity, notes, activity, and so on.  I knew I was going to be out, so I whipped up an activity that the students could do on their on- collect data on each other, then graph it. I was super excited- easy for a sub, the students were still learning- I was patting myself on the back.

Well, they didn't end up getting the lesson on the day I was out (there was a mix-up in the office), so I planned to do it the day I came back.

In the middle of introducing the activity to them, it dawns on me.

This lesson will not work. AT ALL.

I will have to completely change this lesson.


This is where the rapport part comes in.

I have a tendency to be very open and honest with my students. I am really transparent with them. I let them know why things are happening in the school when changes are made (so, all the time). I tell them how, why and when I grade papers. I tell them how, and why, they got their grades. I am all in favor of students having access to information so that they understand what is going on around them.

I do this not just because I think everyone should be as informed as possible, but also because it builds a sense of trust. They know that I will tell the truth, that I will explain things to them.

It also means that they will behave better. My class almost never has problems. Every time admin walks through, students are doing what they need to do- getting work done, participating, discussing.

I am upfront about my lessons, that the students are guinea pigs, and that sometimes the lesson that I give at the end of the day is completely different based upon what happens in each class. They are equal partners in this-my students are helping me be a better teacher by helping me build better lessons.

So yeah. Right in the middle of introducing the activity (which they are excited about), I stop talking. Just stare at the paper.

**thinking furiously**

Ok, guys. Change of plan. This will not work they way  I wrote it.
Proceeded to change a small group activity into a whole class activity.
And it worked. They laughed. They rolled with it. Enjoyed it even.

We collected data. We graphed data. We made conclusions.

They day was saved, I was able to adapt the lesson for the rest of the day. (Pssst-Do you want the fixed version? Find it here!)

You should never be afraid of failure. I have known teachers who thought that they had to be on stage the entire time- performing a flawless routine. These teachers never showed a crack, never had a mistake, even to the point of being completely in the wrong-still pushing that the teacher is right no matter what.

I have never agreed with that. I have always found that being honest with them has been the best policy (*see previous paragraph about behavior!).

So, anyway.. *climbs off soapbox*

This is my story about the lesson that failed. 

Have you ever had a lesson that went spectacularly wrong *right* in the middle of teaching it? Share it so we all feel better!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your failures. I think sometimes its hard to think that others have days when they mess up too. Thanks for being real. I really enjoyed your perspective on this post.

  2. Thanks for sharing this experience. We all have those days, but having a solid and positive rapport with your students....what an achievement! <3

  3. Love this! It is so true ... as teachers we have to learn to be flexible and when something isn't working, change it so it does. I love that you are open and share this with your students. I think it is great for students to see that sometimes things seem to be "failing" and that by seeing the parts that aren't working we can change and make the failure into a success.

  4. I really like bringing students into your cognitive process and using their feedback to change things. It's also a great place to begin a discussion about collaborative science and learning how that works!