Connected Learning: A Personal Story

Laura Ritchie was featured on the main website for Connected Learning, as she had begun to use this style of teaching in her own classroom. One of the biggest pieces of advice she gives in this article is to “Jump in and try something over your head, do it openly and transparently, and model for students how desire to learn can overcome fear of failure.”

Ritchie teaches music, specifically the cello. She created and hosted the Cello Weekend, an event where performers and students of all ages, walks, skills, and levels could come together and perform. The event was a huge success, with the attendees performing together despite differing experience levels and growing to become a “cello orchestra family.” Nothing like this had ever been attempted, and Ritchie knew this. She points out in the article that as a musician, you are never taught how to manage your own studio, create events, and bring other musicians together. You have to jump in and figure it all our for yourself.

What does this mean for a classroom? As a preservice teacher, I find hope in the advice she gives based on this experience. We often perceive teachers as having it all together, as being rooted in their traditions and never really budging from that.Yet it is a major responsibility of teachers to be flexible and to try new things to help provide the best education possible for their students. A teacher needs to be a student themselves.

I have often found myself afraid of trying new things when I am working with education. It is so much easier to stick with what I know works, but sometimes that is not what the students need. If I fail in front of my students, I could inadvertently give them permission  to fail as well. It is in rising from my failings that I have the power to show my students that failure is not the end, but the beginning. It is bursting from the ashes that gives the phoenix its beauty. But I have to have the courage to do this first.

I might try a new bit of curriculum in my classroom or try to incorporate a new activity into our day. If I tell my students this is what I am doing and “do it openly and transparently”, then I offer them the chance to do the same. I have the power to give my students the permission to do something that they may not have considered before. If they never remember a word I said, then I hope they remembered that I failed and used that to grow. That is a lesson I wish I had been taught in class, and one I hope to pass on.

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