Friday, March 31, 2017

And Another March Comes To A Close

And another March comes to a close. 

Thank you to Stacey and Ruth for your vision ten years ago. 

Thank you to the current co-authors for leading us through this year's journey. 

Thank you to everyone who shared their writing, be it one day or 31 days. 

Thank you to everyone who commented and supported writers this month. 

Until Tuesday
This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Makes For A Great Day?

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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What makes for a great day?

Professional Devopment: Student Centered Coaching with Diane Sweeney

Me Time: foot massage(s)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Shhh! Don't Tell, But I Love _____

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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What would show up if we have one day of the Slice of Life Challenge dedicated to secret obsessions? Ramona got me thinking about it with this post

The idea reminded me of Glee - both because Glee could be a secret obsession itself and because Glee had episodes dealing with some of the characters secret obsessions. In the episode, "Guilty Pleasures", this is the thread running among the storylines with secret musical obsessions like Wham and Barry Manilow, as well as unspoken love interests. It is possible that three of the four previously mentioned possibilities could be attributed to me. (No secret love interests here, sorry for killing the suspense.)

What else do I or have I obsessed about?

Most recently Hamilton would fall into this category. I read the book, listened to the soundtrack excessively, watched every Ham4Ham, listened to every interview, and followed the original cast on social media.

My first secret obsession? Menudo. The first boy band of my generation was fueled by Bop magazine. My love for Ricky Martin didn't die when he became a solo artist. In fact, I will still get up and dance when ever his tunes are played. 

Anyone else?

Seattle Memories - The Kingdome

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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I am sure I am not alone in this phenomenon. You're scrolling through your Facebook feed and someone posts something that brings memories flooding back, something you haven't thought of in ages.

This is where I was taken - Seattle's Kingdome. It wasn't a story of the grandeur that she brought it to mind, it was the occasion of the Kingdome's implosion. I am guessing that it was this local news story that reminded her. (She is a very busy woman and I am certain she is not keeping track of things like this in her spare time.) So now I'm pondering this Seattle icon.

Besides seeing it dominate the skyline, my earliest memories of the Kingdom were of the paper airplane contests that were held inside. (You can read articles from the 1970s & 1980s here and here.) What a great idea! Take a humongous, inside area with a huge open space in the middle. Place circles on the ground with different prizes to be won if your plane lands inside particular spaces, line people up around the upper decks, make sure they put their name and phone number on the paper, and let them fly.

I have very fuzzy memories of being taken to an NFL game, but have no true memories of it myself.

I have spent hours and hours and hours in the Kingdome in the 90s, though. I am a 1995 "Refuse To Lose" convert to the game of baseball and a diehard Mariner fan ever since. I bought tickets to tons of single games for the duration of the Kingdome and continued those first years at Safeco Field and finally also purchasing partial season tickets. (Living overseas has changed how I experience baseball, but that's another post.) I have been fortunate to be a most of the major moments in Mariner history and the Kingdome was a part of those.

This was the fate of the icon...

Back then photos were taken with film. I have one, from that morning. It was a Sunday. I was riding up to Crystal Mountain to teach skiing with what is now Outdoors For All. As we drove by, at sunrise, I realized it was the last time I would see the Kingdome mostly intact and I snapped a picture. The colors are pink, there is a full moon hanging above. Prior to the actual implosion they had some work to do in deconstructing some of the monolith to ensure it would actually implode when they pushed the button (or flipped the switch, or whatever they did to make the implosion happen). The picture is at my other house so I can't share it with you here. I titled it "Full Moon, Half Dome".

Seventeen years the Seattle skyline has been without this icon. That was the point of my friend's post. How has it been that long? Yet the life I lived then seemed more than 17 years and 8,000 miles away. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

(Random Kingdome trivia and memories here.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Poem In Your Pocket Day

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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This week is Reading Week and today is 'Poem In Your Pocket Day'. 

I choose to do our poetry unit in April. One reason is because it is National Poetry Month in the US, so there are lots of ideas floating around, but that isn't my main reason.

I like the timing of April for poetry. I find it to be an engaging way to return from Spring Break. Plus, it is a shorter unit and we only have school for a couple of weeks that month. 

All of that being said, I did not do a bunch of prep with my students for today. I did mention it yesterday, reminding them that they could bring one with them. During writing time this morning one of their options was to write a poem, but I didn't push it and barely encouraged it. 

So, I am pleasantly surprised to look around the room during snack and see several students sharing poems with one another - boys and girls alike. One student even brought me a poem to add to the one in my pocket (that I had jotted on a sticky note this morning).

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Confession, Memories, and a Cliffhanger

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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I read Leah's post that was inspired by Whistle Pops. You can read it here. "It's funny how a picture can bring back a flood of memories in an instant." is how she starts her Slice. She closes with an image gallery of candy from her childhood. Now I am awash in memories myself.

One candy that she doesn't have pictured are Now and Laters. Did you eat these as a child? If not, think extra hard and sticky versions of Starburst. (There may be consequences for my writing this, as I know my mom reads my blog.) Confession: Mom, it wasn't apples or carrots that popped off the back brackets of my braces. There. I said it.

As I contemplate candy from my childhood the following items gurgle up from my memories:
Fun Dip
Pop Rocks
Ring Pops
Lemon Heads

Boston Baked Beans

Sour Patch Kids
Bottle Caps
Charlston Chews
Necco Wafers

I am struck that there isn't any chocolate on this list. These days I can pass on candy just about any time, it's chocolate that gets me. When did the chocolate things start? Whatchamacallit is fun to say. It is the chocolate bar I think of from childhood (besides plain Hershey bars for s'mores), but it wasn't something I had a thing for. High school is when my first chocolate memories begin; Peanut M&Ms (for breakfast), Skor bars (with Coke Slushies), and selling the chocolate caramel band fundraiser bars to myself.

One more memory - the first picture on Leah's post is this...

I figured that I must have written about this before, but a search of my blog shows nothing. I am not ready to write about it today, either. I am sure it will come out one day.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mom's Snorkel Outing

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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One of the only things that was on my mom's 'must do' list while visiting us in Saudi Arabia was to go snorkeling. Today was the day we had set aside for the outing. 

There is a great beach just over an hour north of us. The coral is fabulous. It sits in a small bay. Best of all, the National Guard oversee the area and when we register they will close the beach off to non-Western expats so we can wear whatever we want. It's been nicknamed "Bikini Beach".

The first thing I noticed when we paused at the bluff above the beach was that there were two boats anchored in the bay, which I have never seen before. When we pulled up next to the water there was a breeze blowing - enough of a breeze that putting our sun shade up in its normal 'tent' format would just blow it out to the water, even with the stakes.

The guys who were diving got into their gear and headed out. (Full body wetsuits as well as being below the surface of the water were two factors that would be very different for them than for those snorkeling.)

I am a wuss. I don't like to be cold. Plus I live here. I don't have to get in when the conditions are not ideal. I plopped down to enjoy the view and watch my daughter construct grand things in the sand.

My husband comes back in to take my daughter snorkeling. She tells of all the pink and purple coral she saw and describes many fish that fascinated her.

My mom sat next to me. 

"Who will believe that it was too cold?!" I imagine her saying to people back home. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Once you are packed the trip can start, right?

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Once you are packed the trip can start, right?

I wish it was that easy to set a calendar - the second you close your back the clock automatically strikes the minute of departure. (Sometimes it is the opposite, you want time to freeze until you can get it all packed.)

I am packed, if you count everything that needs to go into the suitcase is either in a pile or written on the list as 'packed'. Sub plans are complete, if you count the highlighted section that I can't fill in until I see how Sunday's and Monday's lessons go. The taxi reservations are actually made and confirmed, as are the plane tickets, but I can't check in yet.

And then there is the can of worms that has just opened up regarding electronics while flying. Currently this trip will not be impacted, but I realize rules can change at any point. I wish I didn't have to take my laptop, but I am presenting at a conference so it is necessary. I have convinced my husband that we can share one. (He arrives after I present and can use mine for work while I switch over to my phone.)

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Who Is More Relieved?

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I'm not sure who is more relieved, the teachers or the students. 

I probably have a slice about this each year as the science fair is always in March. In fact, I have always set it to be the day before Spring Break. This has been done for several reasons including keeping both students' attention and attendance right up until the last day. 

This year I am a bit out of whack since we still have a week to go until vacation starts. Again, this was done intentionally. I had hoped to be selected to present at a conference. The conference starts before our Spring Break begins. I run the science fair at our school so I figured I should probably ensure I was around for it. Turns out, it was good planning, but that hasn't kept me from feeling the automatic; science fair complete = vacation starts.

The morning started with judges judging and teachers grading. The students are so nervous for this part. That being said, it doesn't take them very long to realize that they are prepared. Their confidence flicks on and they shine. 

We allow for a couple of periods of class visits from third and fourth grades. One team asked each student who approached their table if they knew anything about the greenhouse effect. If someone replied in the affirmative the student continued, "Could you please explain what you know?" This was all them and it was a fantastic way to engage their audience. I loved it and will use this example for years to come.

The final round of visitors is the one the students are most anxious about - their parents. Five minutes before the students needed to change from their spiffy outfits to their active wear I went through the venue announcing, "Parents, there are only five more minutes, as we need to get to P.E." (The end time had been clearly communicated to everyone previously.) While the parents reluctantly departed, my students beamed. They had made it!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Why Am I Still Up? Yup, Can't Get A Slice Out.

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It is past my bedtime. 

Can you guess why I am still up? Yup, because I haven't hit 'publish' on a blog post for today, yet. 

It is not that I have forgotten. It is not that this is my first chance to sit down and write. In fact, I have drafted one on the computer, one in my notebook, and two in my head. So what's the problem? I'm not sure. They just aren't quite right and for whatever reason I can't get the revisions to flow to the point in which I can put it out there for the world. 

So here I am, everyone else in bed, and I am still staring at the screen. 

I read posts from my RSS feed, looking for inspiration. I read my Facebook feed, looking for distraction. I even get up and do a chore or two and then sit back down and realize the minutes keep ticking by. I have the advantage of being a bunch of hours ahead of EDT, but I need to get something posted before tomorrow morning's alarm goes off. 

I tell my students that a slice has to be more than three sentences and that two paragraphs is a good guideline for a minimum. I wonder what any of them will say if they read this.

Good night.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Things You See Driving Through Saudi - In Verse

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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The back of a pickup
Stacked with hay bales
Eighteen inches remain
Stick in a goat
It won't go hungry!

Flashing lights from an oncoming truck
Warning, but of what?
Down a stretch and around a corner
Caution: Camels
They could be
Walking along the road
Crossing the road
Grazing near the road
But you don't want to hit one!
Flashing our lights at an oncoming truck

This stretch is
Flat, monotone, sand covered.
Over there the sea sparkles
blue and turquoise and seafoam green.
Heading up and up
Mountainous, rosey-red hued.
Down in the valley
Green! Tall grass, palm trees, and shrubs.
What's around the next corner?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hooking Them On Catan

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With school canceled due to the sand day yesterday, after school activities were also cancelled. Since we have this week and next week until Spring Break I was thinking that we had two more weeks of after school activities. I was wrong.

This is the last week of this session's activities, therefore my last meeting of Strategy Games isn't going to happen. I'm not sure that all the students have figured this out yet. I am certain that when they do I will start receiving petitions to offer it again next round.

There is still plenty of grit in the air. (In fact some schools were out today as well.) When the wind picked up in the afternoon we had indoor recess. Some of the kids of Strategy Games asked if I would get out Settlers of Catan.

I started Strategy Games as a way for some kids to interact with peers after school, lured in by the offer of allowing Pokeman cards. My goal was to remove 90 minutes of potential screen time once a week. It worked, there was a waiting list nearly as soon as registration opened.

After two weeks most of them were ready for things other than Pokemon. From the beginning things like Chess, Backgammon, and Scrabble were available. On week three I offered to teach some kids how to play Settlers of Catan

If you don't know the game, Catan is a multi-player, strategy board game. It is not simple and a game takes at least an hour to play. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to hook the kids, but I played up that it was challenging and that you would have to pay attention and stick with it AND that only four people could play. Of course scarcity makes something popular and we used a random number generator to choose of those interested. I let two one of the youngest kids team with an older kid, which included one more player. I also agreed to act as 'the banker'. This gave me a role at table (though they chose to play on the floor) and set up a role for an additional person on subsequent weeks.

We were only about twenty minutes in when all the kids playing, and all the kids who were hoping for a turn the next time, were convinced that it was the best thing since - whatever it is that ten and eleven year olds think is the best thing at the time.

Happy to hook a bunch of kids into a great game. By the way, the answer was ,"With only ten minutes?!" to the kids who asked during inside recess. I walked away smiling as I heard other kids ask, "What's Settlers of Catan?"

Sunday, March 19, 2017

School Is Cancelled And It Isn't Snow

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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We aren't left out of the party! It's not a snow day, but the results are the same. (And I am STILL wrong, as it isn't a rain day, either.) Due to a major sandstorm working its way through the area, the Ministry of Education is requiring all schools in our town to stay closed today. This is for public safety reasons; they don't want people to have any reason to be out and about.

No school! Woohoo!

Well, there is school, only I can stay in my pajamas all day. I have already written up the 'to do' list for my students and have it scheduled to go live on Google Classroom when school would have started in a couple of minutes.

If you want to see what a serious sandstorm could be, Google Saudi sandstorm and you will have a new appreciation for the power of wind and sand.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Meteorological Skills

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Three days ahead of the official end of winter, and I use that term very loosely from here in The Sandbox, I make the following observation.

We have been absolutely blessed with the most wintery weather I have ever had here. We bought screens for our windows and have been sleeping with fresh night air for months. I had to buy socks and wear something other than sandals, which I have never done in this country. It has been fantabulous. 

Camping last night, in the middle of a wadi, with sand and palm trees and geologic wonders and a galaxy of stars, (and eventually a really bright moon that woke me up because it was shining in my eyes) it got down to the low 50s - downright chilly. (Remember, everything is relative.)

We return home and step out of the luxury of our vehicle, with its climate control capabilities, to discover that it has gotten warmer and really humid while we were gone! Bummer.

I am very aware that it is going to get much hotter and the humidity is going to stick around - for months on end. Again, it's all relative and I quickly change my mindset from 'bummer' for our present weather condition to so thankful that we have made it nearly an entire calendar 'winter'.

(Epilogue: I checked my weather app to see how hot and how humid and then chuckled and considered scrapping this post. I guess I have been waiting, perhaps even holding my breath, for the weather to change. It turns out that I jumped to conclusions. This rise in temperature and jump in humidity is because there is 55% chance of a rain shower in three hours. After that the winds pick up and we will go back to 'winter' - at least for another week. Hamdallah.)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Desert Camping - Saudi Style

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The food is prepared. The car is packed. The gas tank is full. We are off to the desert for a weekend of camping. With my mom visiting for the first time the question wasn't IF we would take her camping, but WHERE. We are headed back here...

The setting is spectacular. The company will be without comparison. And the stars! I can't wait. We're off...

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ironic Early Hours

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Once the pain subsided the irony hit me. 

4:45 a.m. Wednesday, March 15th = excited to be awake.

4:36 a.m. Thursday, March 16th = NOT thrilled to be awake (and it had nothing to do with it being nine minutes earlier!)

Yesterday I was exuberant to have my alarm go off at 4:45 a.m. It meant that I was about to be present (virtually) in a meeting at our home church. This morning I was very much unenthused to be awake due to a migraine.

The amusement continued when I realized that I wasn't going to get any more sleep so I decided to be productive; laundry, dishes, grocery list... Grocery list! I could run to the store; except I can't drive in this country. Chuckling to myself I thought, once again, of irony.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Living The Virtual Life

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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1 3/4 hours in Seattle:

4+ hours in Dhahran:

6 minutes split, unevenly, between NY & MA along with PA, VA, IL, IA, and KL:

Dabbling as I could along the trail to Nome:

A few moments in Yangon:

Finally, here:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I'm Calling It: Success!

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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We aren't quite half way through the month, but I am ready to call the Classroom Challenge a success! My students are ASKING for more time to write each day. They are feeling connected to one another in new ways as a results of their writing. The world, overall, has shrunk because of our involvement in the the Classroom Slice of Life global community.

"Our group has published our Scientific Research Paper. May we please blog?"

"There are still six minutes until recess - can I write?"

"Mrs. Lonheim, may I have five more minutes for commenting - PLEASE?!"

These are all actual quotes from my students in the past two weeks. While I pride myself with ensuring that no student leaves my room without the love of reading, I haven't been as successful with igniting the flame for writing. I am absolutely sure, now, that this is a direct correlation to 'voice and choice'. I give nearly complete freedom in choosing reading material. Writing, well, let's say we do our assigned units well. Within those units students get choice, but let's be honest - it is not complete choice and often the framework they have to work within is not that appealing. It seems that no matter how I massage the assignments, students still seem to be writing for a grade - not for the love of writing.

"Time to sign out, put your device away, and line up." That's the line I use to interrupt the silence in my room. The final punctuation on the statement is currently, "Ahww!"

In addition to now having a common enemy, me, since I am the one who puts a halt on their writing, they are also becoming more of a community through a plethora of shared stories adding to the collective class experience each day as they read one another's posts. The community building aspect of Morning Meeting has grown to the time when they can read and comment on blogs from other students in 5L. They are laughing together at funny stories about cats and soccer. They are empathizing about bad days, feelings of angst, and losses big and small. I watch their appreciation for each other, as people, grow.

Columbia, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States, and Venezuela have all grown closer. From seven year olds to seventeen year olds, there are students around the world writing, just like them. They have the opportunity to read other people's writing and realize that regardless of age or location many human experiences share similar themes. They look for the extra minutes in their day in which to dip into other's blogs and take in their slices - looking for points of connection so they can leave their thoughts and opinions and shared emotions.

The month isn't over, but I'm calling it now: Success!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Now What?!

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Upon entering her room I notice a slight aroma, kindof like Vic's Vapor Rub. But, I think, we don't have Vic's Vapor Rub in the house. (Light bulb!) I instantly remember that the ointment Grandma uses to take the itch out of her mosquito bites has a similar odor.

"Why are you looking guilty?" I ask as she is mostly undressed with pajamas out next to her.

As she stalls I take in the whole scene; lots of exposed skin, glistening face, smeared mirror, "Uh-oh, I'm caught" look upon her face. I deduce quickly.

"Did you ask Grandma if you could use her medicine?"


"It looks like you also used it on your face and your mirror."


The lack of eye contact and continued non-response confirm my suspicions. I sigh to myself. I'm tired. Sundays are long days on a normal week, but this week we had to work Saturday as well. The day was fine, but having an after school activity adds two hours of people time to my day. My family knows that when I get home on Sundays I just want to sit in a quiet room, by myself! I try to rally because I know we have to resolve the situation and clean up the mess before anything else.

"You'll have to talk with Grandma in a minute. My first concern is that we get your face cleaned up so it doesn't get in your eyes."

While I work the wet wipe across her face, in strokes working out from her eyes, I ask why she put the medicine on her face. 

"It looked silky and I thought it would make my face smooth."

I remain silent as I switch to a second wipe.

I love that our relationship continues to be in a place where we can have these conversations. The insight into her thinking fascinates me. (Like the time she cut her hair.)

Once I am sure that she isn't going to rub anything into her eyes during the night I leave her to get her pajamas on while I head to gather cleaning supplies and then supervise as she scrubs her mirror. (I knew if I left her on her own it would a) take six times as long and b) probably result in some other kind of mess.)

Finally we walk downstairs for her to talk with Grandma - the part she is really not looking forward to. She wants me to come with her. I assure her that she can do it and then stand behind Grandma while my daughter sits on Grandma's lap. My daughter can see me. Grandma can't (though I am sure she knows I am there, if for no other reason as my daughter's eyes look to mine after each phrase.)  

Once I am certain enough of the details have been divulged I head outside to put the Windex back in the truck, chucking to myself, "At least she is continues to give me material for slices!"

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Cats in the Bathroom

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"Please head upstairs and brush your teeth and remember; Grandma is still sleeping." I say to my seven year old as we are on our way out the door for school this morning. As I finish in the kitchen and pass the stairway enroute to my backpack I hear a her singing.

"They all could reflect, that it was very nice
To know that they wouldn't be bothered by mice
They can leave all that to the railway cat
The cat of the railway train."

As I realize that she has the verse nailed she cranks her voice up a few notches to belt out the chorus.

"Skimbleshanks, the railway cat
The cat of the railway train."

The smile cannot be wiped from my face as I rush up the stairs to whisper, "Remember - Grandma is sleeping!"

She stops singing, but the grin is huge and the pride is oozing from her every pore. She knows she nailed it, too.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

ALS Still Sucks

This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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over a flannel shirt
red and black plaid
Long strides
ahead of me

Long, long spaces
of silence
And then the question.
Always just the right question
to get to the heart
Often on a drive

too many to even recall
let alone capture.

Four years,
at times unfathomable
at least for us mortals
left on earth.

Friday, March 10, 2017


This post is part of the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
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One of the great things about March is the privilege of reading the posts of other people who participate. We grow as a community as we share in one another's lives and ideas. I read this post and was reminded that I have had thoughts on the subject of failure percolating as well. Now the challenge is to see if I can articulate them.

The idea of failing or failure as something we should strive for has gained traction in recent years."Failing forward", as a concept, I can agree with. It is the idea that failure provides the opportunity for growth - the chance to learn from what goes wrong.

As I said, the concept I absolutely agree with; when something doesn't work you don't just throw in the towel. Instead, by trying again (and again and again) you will find a way forward.

What I don't understand is the focus on the word 'failure'. To me failure is giving up and/or not trying. The notion of throwing in the towel, to me, is completely opposite of the concept that has become popular. 

I find that encouraging a 'growth mindset' for my daughter and my students is important to their ability to continue to try things. Creating a place where ideas can be tried and massaged and tried again and thrown out for new ideas is what I strive for. When the word 'failure' enters the ring many of my students shut down.

Perhaps it is because nearly all of my students are not native English speakers and their first thought of failure seems to be attached to an 'F' on a report card. Perhaps it is something about how I use the word or frame my ideas. I am not sure.

One example of where we have to discussing failure not being negative is during science experiments. An experiment can fail to prove a hypothesis, thus the experiment is a 'failure', however this does not mean the students have failed! The first time I bring this up I always have at least one student whose eyeballs nearly pop out of their skull and generally it is someone for whom their parents have stressed that it is not acceptable for them to fail, as in 'bring home an F'.

So why the talk of 'failure'? The examples of 'famous failures' are not new examples, but it is only recently that they have been labeled as such. Previously it was about overcoming adversity or following the example of The LIttle Engine Who Could and how to try, try again with the power of positive self talk.

I don't hear or read of anyone else pushing back on what feels like a rebranding to me. What are your thoughts?