Middle School Monday: Let Students Do It
I don’t want this blog to be like that. I don’t want to share projects and ideas that have turned out successfully and have ANYONE think that tells my complete story. I mess up. A lot. Although I’m trying to think of it as failing forward.
I’m going to share one such story for two reasons.
- It was so mortifying to me—in the moment—that by sharing it, I hope to cleanse myself of the whole experience. [I once had a friend who shared an unflattering picture of himself on Facebook “to cleanse himself of it” and I’ve always loved that sentiment!]
- More importantly, it drove home an important lesson that I really should have already known. Hint: It is the title of this post.
We have an amazing 7th grade science teacher at our school. [Follow her at @BethMCampbell.] In addition to the fabulous things she does in the classroom, she organizes an overnight (!) camping trip for our 7th graders, complete with these amazing and fun enrichment activities. I was tapped to do something at the campfire. Tell a story, maybe? Not really in my wheelhouse. [I’d rather write a story than tell one.] But, I thought, how hard can this be? I’m a librarian. I can find a good story to tell.
I COULD NOT FIND A STORY. My instructions were that it could not be scary. I thought, no problem, I’ll find a funny one. I reached out to the brilliant librarians in my district. I reached out to one of my professors who is a storytelling master. They sent me great ideas. For various reasons, they didn’t fit. [Because of my own failings or content or audience, not because of the suggestions.]
I finally decided to tell some urban legends, as they are our modern day fairy tales. I was excited to learn that people call them FOAF Tales—because they always happen to a friend of a friend. Or, my neighbor’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s college roommate. Fun, right?
The stories I chose aren’t important. I’ll just say this. I bombed. I BOMBED. I had spent hours—hours—researching and practicing, but it just didn’t work. I even stopped after the first story. As, I was sitting there in the moment—and, after, while I reflected on it—the words bouncing around in my head were…
WHY DIDN’T I LET THE STUDENTS DO IT?
One of the reasons it didn’t work was that the STUDENTS wanted to talk. THEY wanted to tell stories. I should have put the idea of student campfire storytelling out to all the 7th graders a week in advance and see who wanted to participate.
We could have then worked on finding or creating stories. I could’ve helped them! It would have been fun! They could have practiced. What a great confidence builder! And a fun way for students to get public speaking experience. [All of THAT is what is in my wheelhouse.] Learner agency plus fire. I love it.
What makes this even worse is that normally I’m a champion for LETTING STUDENTS DO IT. How did that knowledge leave me at such an important (and public) juncture? How? [Y’all. My principal was even there.] Instead of me stumbling through the experience, it would have been our students SHINING.
What an epic and humiliating fail on my part. I’ve got to fail it forward though with a takeaway I will remember: Let students do it. Let students do it! [Whatever IT is.] Truly, everyone wins.
Have an awesome week, everyone!
I’m Julie Stivers at @BespokeLib and I fail sometimes!
Filed under: Middle School Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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