This morning I'll be wrapping up what, unfortunately, appears to be my last visit to Apple in Austin for awhile. There are about 130 teachers from around the state working on the TASA on iTunes U project; my group has been writing course curricula for a new HS electives class caltled "Literary Genres," and it's been great fun - except when it hasn't.
I was pretty proud of myself when I got here yesterday and I had three "posts" (lessons) to show off. The ideas had come to me pretty easily, the writing flowed, and I thought the content was pretty good. Everyone in my group seemed to like them, too. The other three people in the group also had good work to share. So I went in to yesterday feeling pretty good.
But then I tried to come up with another equally engaging post, and I ran up against a wall. Instead of actually getting anything done, I ran down a rabbit trail trying to figure out how a certain web-based timeline maker worked (beautiful results, but not easy to get there) - and after an hour or more of being frustrated by the tool, I decided that a timeline probably wouldn't work in the lesson anyway. So, at least two hours of the day down the drain.
Because I was frustrated, I knew that I needed to change gears, so I decided to start over on a completely different topic. Approximately the same results: I spent a lot of time finding content (okay, that part wasn't all that bad) but struggled mightily with what, exactly, I would want students to do and learn in the lesson. I haven't given up on either of these lessons yet, and I'm assuming they will both come together in time, but it always makes me wonder: why do some projects just seem to write themselves, and others put up such a struggle to be born? Sometimes I think if it's easy to write, it must be the "right" thing to write, and in some sense that is probably true. But on the other hand, if the only things that get done are the easy-to-accomplish ones, what is the point of ever struggling or wrestling to tackle something that is really challenging?
I think of the teachers in my district who are very tech-averse. If we didn't nudge them along and try to challenge them to take that next step into tech integration, they could stay in that zone that is "easy" for them. Or the students - of course, the students - who don't want to try anything that is going to be hard and involve work and potential failure.
Ay, there's the rub: that potential failure part. Maybe that is what is making these two lessons so difficult for me. By the end of the day yesterday I felt I was scratching and clawing my way firmly to the area of mediocrity, and I like to be in the good-to-excellent zone. But I want these two additional posts to be "as good as" the three from yesterday that I felt were pretty strong submissions; I don't like that they're not there yet, and for me that experience feels like failure.
The second reason I think I'm struggling: I had kind of thought up on my own the topics of the three posts that I was so proud of yesterday morning; They were based on ideas that *I* had. Of the two I'm fighting with now, one was suggested by my team members as something that would be a good complement to what I had submitted yesterday; the other one is a topic that sort of has to be included in our course and no one had taken it yet, so I just kind of grabbed it. I don't feel nearly the ownership or sense of originality and creativity that I did with my first posts.
And this blog post: it has come very easily to me, whereas others lately are just sitting in the queue with that nasty Draft word next to them. For whatever reason, apparently this was the one I was supposed to write this morning. I imagine that my experience today will bring some additional frustration, but I'm hoping that by the end of the day I'll have something good to show for the struggle.
Wish me luck!
Addendum: The day did not get significantly better on Friday, and I left Austin feeling very much like a Tier 3 student who had been wrongly placed in a GT class. However, I woke up this morning with an idea for a slightly different approach on one of the lessons and finished up in about half an hour what I think is a pretty strong addition to our work. Hopefully I will be able to do the same for my remaining two pieces.