Dear New Students:
Ice cubes, leeches, and a long bike ride. An interesting combination of items, but how do they all meet together? Why would I be writing a post about these three items? Because, this year, I am going to ask you to do a few things differently: I am going to ask you to step outside your comfort zone and not be afraid to fail.
Last week, I conducted a workshop called Full STEAM Ahead for 15 K-5 teachers. It was an awesome experience because I had the opportunity to work with some former colleagues that work at the Science Discovery Museum. On the second day of the workshop, we were working on an activity called “ice balloons”. These are just awesome materials and the teachers were very involved. We were working on developing investigable and non-investigable questions and then the teachers needed to design an investigation based on one of their questions. There was one group that really talked through their plans. It all sounded really well thought out. However, when they started their investigation, their materials were not correct and their experiment failed. However, they were wonderful learners and they already had started analyzing their mistakes and were discussing what they would do differently. They perhaps learned more than groups that had a successful outcome. So, yes, you can fail and learn even more in your failure than if it went smoothly. Don’t be afraid of failure, embrace the experience and see what you can learn from it.
This Monday, I was invited to go along on a Bridle Shiner survey. Bridle Shiners are a threatened fish that is found in Vine Brook in Bedford. It’s an interesting location, located right behind a cluster of office buildings and restaurants, and right off Route 3. I was told to wear light pants and old sneakers/hiking boots. It was a gorgeous day, so I was excited to learn about these fish. There was a nice group of people gathered, ranging from a student in his last year of college to a Boston Globe reporter. I looked at the brook while waiting for the others, and it didn’t seem overly deep. After everyone was ready, we headed off towards the source of the brook, through some woods, and over a large pile of brush. As we headed to the bank of the river, I started to wonder how deep this water was going to be. I was stupidly carrying my phone and didn’t want it to get soaked. As I scooted down the bank into the brook, I was initially surprised at the coolness of the beautiful green-blue water. It felt refreshingly soothing and calming. I am not someone who loves the water, so I was a little worried about the depth of the brook and I didn’t want to wreck my phone. But, I cautiously felt around the bottom of the brook as I slowly stepped towards the middle of the brook. It was beautiful. There was a lot of plant life as well as a lot of different fish. We collected about five different types of fish while we were out there. The fish were beautiful and peaceful to observe. We also found crayfish and dragon-fly nymphs there. After about 40 minutes in the water, we climbed out onto the bank again. Bryan Windmiller yelled out to us, “Check your ankles.” “Check our ankles?” I thought to myself. I thought he was referring to ticks since we had traipsed through some brush. But it was not ticks he was referring to. It was leeches.
“You really should tuck your socks into your pants before heading into the water,” Bryan told us. A little late for that piece of advice at that point. My pant legs were filled with water when I pulled it up and lo and behold, there was a leech on my left ankle. Quickly, I pulled off the gelatinous mass off of me. I was slightly grossed out at that point, but just dealt with it. When I got back to my car, I pulled the pants off (I had shorts on underneath) and low and behold, two more leeches. And these ones were not as easy to remove. I was really grossed out at this point as one had caused my leg to bleed and he wasn’t letting go very easy. So, I found a paper towel in the car and struggled a bit to get the leeches off. Initially I thought, this would be the first and last time that I participated in the Bridle Shiner survey. But after thinking about it, getting into the deeper water was outside my comfort zone and picking up leeches was certainly out of my comfort zone. However, the upside was that this was a new and informative experience and that experiences that outside your comfort zone help you grow. So, I would do it again, but making sure that I tucked my socks into my pants to prevent those pesky leeches from invading again.
Finally on this gorgeous Monday, I ended my day by meeting a friend for dinner. This friend was actually a girl I use to coach in track and field. “Murph” was someone that was one of the hardest workers on the team. Life was not always the easiest for her, but she never gave up. She is doing an Ironman Triathlon this coming weekend and I am just so proud of her. She has been training and one of her stories really hit home. She decided to sign up for a 148 mile bike ride to help her get ready for the 112 mile ride that she will have to do in the triathlon. She was riding along at about the 75 mile point when she sensed a car right behind her. The car right behind her was the car that rode behind the last place biker. She was in last place. But instead of throwing in the towel, she decided to make the most of her new support crew and learn about biking from them. She took the lemons and made lemonade. One of the support team was a champion triathlete. Stephanie learned as much as she could from this woman. She really wanted to get to 100 miles of this race, and she did. Coincidentally, she is also a teacher, and she was telling her class about the experience. One student said that she failed. But she didn’t look at it at all that way. As she said to me, “experience is your best teacher.” She learned a lot from that experience and it translated into her becoming a better biker.
So, being last isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Failing isn’t a bad thing when you learn about how to do something differently the next time. And, to also grow as a learner, you sometimes need to step out of your comfort zone even if it means picking off a few leeches. Life is full of experiences both good, bad, or ugly. Just keep in mind as Stephanie said to me, “experience is your best teacher.” Learn from it. Embrace it. Enjoy it.
See you soon!