Embrace the New: Dealing with Disaster

Buddy, you’re a boy, make a big noise

Let’s face it. At some point in your educational career, something will inevitably NOT go as planned. It happens in classrooms, buildings, and districts. We plan and plan, but then the execution does not have the result that we intend. It fails. Flops. Crashes. Burns. So then what do we do? Get embarrassed, dejected, angry, stressed or all of the above? Sure. What should we do instead? Embrace the suck? Yes, I said it. While listening to my preacher on Sunday, he said that very thing. Sometimes our lessons, initiatives, school climate, programs, and more are like having a flat tire on the interstate, and while jacking up the car to change it, a semi-truck drives by, rocks the car, bends the jack, and you are eight miles away from the nearest town.

Playing in the street, gonna be a big man someday

Everybody has days like that. How we deal with those moments is what can really open up learning for our students. As my preacher went on with his point, he changed the narrative. Instead of looking at it as needing to Embrace the Suck, he suggested we now look at those frustrating mishaps as an opportunity to Embrace the New. Look for ways to tap into that power. Students on Snapchat too much? Tara M. Martin showed us how to Embrace the New with the Snapchat obsession by devising an educational use for the app she dubbed, #BookSnaps. How else might that look in our classrooms and schools? There’s plenty of examples of Embracing the New out there for us to see.

Paper Airplanes/Snowball Fight

Variations of this have been around for a while. Just google snowball fight teaching strategy and see how many hits you get. I recently checked out the free preview of Boredom Busters written by Katie Powell and published by DBC Inc,. and the worksheet buster involving paper airplanes is a great spin on the snowball fight idea. Is your worksheet not engaging your students? Lesson gone awry? Embrace the New and turn it into a paper airplane throwing activity. Students grab the airplane closest to them and complete the next problem on the sheet, return it to airplane status, throw, lather, rinse, repeat. I love the fact that the original owner gets his or her original worksheet back, and then must check the work before turning it in. Brilliant. (For complete details, check out Katie’s newly published book.)

Rabbit Trails

There are days and times when the attention span of teachers in meetings or students in the classroom just cannot remain focused on the topic at hand. It may seem as if all is lost and that you should Embrace the Suck, but that’s not the case at all. No, in those moments, if a Paper Airplane activity or Snowball Fight simply won’t do, then it’s time to chase a rabbit down the trail. Yes. Chase it. Allow your students or teachers to go down a rabbit trail. Not every day, and not every time, but it too can turn around and be an amazing tool for learning and growth. In fact, Dave Burgess says in Teach Like A PIRATE, that in the

“practice of immersion and letting yourself fully experience the moment applies to the classroom in more ways that I can possibly mention. I am a firm believer in having structure and definite plans for the direction of lessons, but sometimes things happen that demand a change in direction and a ‘letting go’ of the plan.” (18)

Dave goes on to reinforce the fact that we teach children. It’s about the kids, not the standardized test scores.

“Having the right structure and using your time in the classroom effectively allows you the flexibility to let ‘the moment’ happen without any sense of guilt. Sometimes we need to just ‘be’ with our students and take the figurative walk through the canyons with them.” (18)

So in the event you have a room full of little people or adult people, remember that allowing “the moment” to happen is another tool you need to have in your toolbox. It is a necessary strategy. Those days will happen where “the moment” overwhelms your plans and runs rampant through the room. “Be” in that moment with them and see where it takes you.

You got mud on your face, you big disgrace

Technology Failure

It happens to even the best laid plans. Sometimes there’s just no rhyme, reason, or explanation for why your tech suddenly won’t work, and other times there is a reason, but it can’t be helped even when you know the cause. It can be your device, Smartboard, projector, network, or even a power outage in the building or district. Whatever the reason for the failure, there’s no need to Embrace the Suck. Turn that moment around and Embrace the New. Evidence of teacher creativity is easy to find if you can spare the time to look for it. In fact, Matt Miller wrote a post about just this, and in it he says,

One method for handling those meltdowns has worked so well that I’d call it “foolproof,” in that when class is over, I don’t regret how it happened. Here it is: Smile, and say, “Let’s try something else.” Then try something else. Sound too easy? (Sorry if that wasn’t the “silver bullet” answer you were looking for.)

His post goes on to explain why the Embrace the New for Matt has a lot of other value than just keeping the lesson going when the technology fails, and he’s right. To get started, always have a backup plan in mind so that you can get it going with minimal interruption. Here are some ideas I have gathered and tucked away for such technology failures (or whenever I feel like using them):

  • Blackout Poetry
  • Flashlight Stories (reading or creating by flashlight)
  • Games
  • Team Tower Building
  • MakerSpace (with whatever you can accumulate in a designated file cabinet drawer & )
  • Debates
  • Dry Erase Boards/Markers
  • Improvisation

These are just a few that I keep at the ready along with whatever else my imagination can come up with in advance or in the heat of the moment. (My brain works better under pressure sometimes…errrr…most of the time.)

Kicking your can all over the place, singin’

Lack of Engagement/Disruptions

We have all had these moments too, and a brain break or an instant dose of fun is all that is required to grab the attention of students and redirect their focus. Some of the things we’ve already mentioned will work here. Need to get staff members working more like a team than individuals? Build game time into your PD days. So far this year, my district has had us do mixed teams for scavenger hunts, a volleyball tournament, and most recently, spoons. Pure fun that busts up the norm is always a hit, and it can, if you really feel that it must, incorporate your content. A quick Google search, various books out there including Katie and Dave’s that I mentioned above, and a search of hashtags on twitter will totally get you on track to ramp up engagement and eliminate disruptions.

We will, we will rock you

No matter what the situation, the failures and surprises, always remember to shift your perspective from Embrace the Suck to Embrace the New. See the possibilities that exist no matter the situation. Turn that thinking around. You’ve got this.

Partial lyrics are from Queen’s We Will Rock You.

One thought on “Embrace the New: Dealing with Disaster

  1. Embracing a new perspective is so effective when things aren’t going according to plan! I love the idea of having some back up plans you can use just in case. As a substitute teacher this can be helpful because the regular teacher’s plans may be missing a component or not work the way it should & having a back up can keep things moving forward! Now I need to go make a list of those backups to keep in my sub bag (since, in the moment of panic, I know that I won’t remember any of them)! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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