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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Learn, Grow, Change: A 5th Grade Perspective

By Barry Saide — June 18, 2014 3 min read
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Today’s guest blog is written by Barry Saide, a fifth grade teacher in Bernards Township, NJ. Mr. Saide had the help of his fifth grade students on this one.

There were funny times in our classroom where we laughed so hard we thought we would die. There were other moments that weren’t as fun, didn’t kill us, but helped us grow. These moments enabled us to change for the better. We learned, grew, and changed for the better by using failures as opportunities to reflect on mistakes.

We accepted constructive criticism from our classmates as chances to fix mistakes. For example, one of us was impatient when trying to use the Internet. He clicked the icon button five times in a row. This caused the Internet to work slowly, as it received five commands at the same time. Our classmate remarked that the Internet was “Not working and I don’t know why. This is how it works at my house. It’s the school Internet’s fault! " We helped him to see that patience is important. Just because he clicks on the Internet multiple times at his home to make it work quicker, he needed to understand that he didn’t need to do the same thing at school. We all learned from his experience that being impatient will not help us complete any tasks we have, impatience will only slow us down.

We learned what it feels like to go from failure to accomplishment because we accept failure as part of our growth. For example, our favorite greeting in class is Ball Toss. Ball Toss was usually a smooth greeting for us. It was usually quiet, focused, and accurate. We were supposed to toss a ball underhand to a classmate and greet them. Then they would catch the ball, and greet us in return. The ball would keep being passed and classmates would keep greeting each other until everyone had touched the ball and been greeted. This time that did not happen, it was the exact opposite. Too many balls were dropped, some rolled away, some lodged into bookshelves, and we didn’t throw accurate passes. We laughed at first, realizing our mistakes later. It was our worst Ball Toss ever: we had made a mistake and now we needed to fix it.

We needed to think about how we could improve from our failure and grow from it. We kept in mind a phrase our teacher told us: fight or flight. We reflected on what that meant. We realized we had to fight this problem and not “fly away” from it. Each of us wrote a letter to ourselves, stating what we did incorrectly, what we should have done, and how we would fix this failure to end the year as strong as we started. We held ourselves and each other accountable for our actions by sharing our letters with each other. By talking about what we wrote, we let our classmates know what was important to us, reminded others of our expectations, and modeled the importance of everyone being honest about what occurred.

After taking a break from Ball Toss for about two weeks, we made a class decision to try it again. Before we began, we reviewed our expectations, discussed what we learned from our failure, and what we would do differently. This was just like the motto our teacher says: fail is just the first attempt in learning. We then did Ball Toss greeting with 24 tennis balls, and only 21 classmates. We learned, grew, changed, and set a class record for the number of balls tossed during the greeting.

From the beginning of the year to now, we have grown into leaders, follows, writers, readers, and arguers. We advocate for what we believe is right. We laugh together, and we’ve learned to pick each other up instead of putting each other down. We exercise our hearts every day so we can make our classroom a better place, and help the world learn, grow, and change with us.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.