- Trying a new idea can be intimidating when considering all the potential ways it could fail.
- Implement your new idea by visualizing the lesson, making predictions, finding your people, and being open to challenges and feedback.
If you’re anything like me, you are always thinking. Thinking about anything and everything. It’s hard for me to focus at times—or even sleep—because of said thinking. Whether it’s an idea that comes to me in the midst of all that thinking or an idea that I get from another educator, it can be difficult to think about what to do next. And it can be especially intimidating when considering all the potential ways it could fail.
This is my 7th year in education, and I feel like I’ve had thousands of educational-related ideas over the last 6+ years in the classroom. I recently sat down and reflected on why some of these ideas epically fail (as in…I’m never doing that again), or why some succeed beautifully (as in…why haven’t I been doing this all along?).
And I think the difference between those 2 extremes boils down to 3 things.
3 tips that can help you implement any new idea the right way:
- Visualize the lesson and make predictions.
- Find your people and brainstorm with them.
- Be open to challenges and feedback.
Tip #1 to Implement Your New Idea: Visualize the Lesson & Make Predictions
This might sound kind of silly, but take time to visualize the lesson taking place. In your mind, pretend you are going through every single step of the lesson so that you can not only foresee, but prepare for, any hurdles.
There have been so many times when I’ve done this and realized that I need to have groups made ahead of time, or have a paper copy of a resource printed out instead of on the computer. Make predictions about how students will respond to various tasks so that you can modify them to meet their needs and interests.
It depends on the lesson you are planning for, but taking yourself through the lesson ahead of time step by step can help eliminate a lot of potential problems.
Tip #2 to Implement Your New Idea: Find Your People and Brainstorm with Them
When I have a new idea I want to try in the classroom, I run it by two people. One of my go-to people is my ELA counterpart—the ELA teacher on the same team is me (shoutout to Adam!). He has been in the classroom for 20 years, has a background in social studies, and has years of experience with students from various backgrounds and ability levels. I’d say it’s basically impossible for me to share an idea with him and not hear some way we could change it to make it even better…and I love that.
My other go-to person is my co-teacher (shoutout to Abbie!). We have co-taught a block of ELA together for four years now, and her background in special education takes my ideas even a step further to make sure we are supporting all students.
Finding my people has been “life-changing” in regards to lesson planning, and I’d recommend to anyone that they seek out those people who make them better.[scroll down to keep reading]
Tip #3 to Implement Your New Idea: Be Open to Challenges and Feedback
Whenever I try a new lesson with students for the first time ever, I’m open and honest with them about it. I literally say, “I’ve never done this before, so as we go, if any of you have an idea to do something a different way, let’s hear it!” And truth be told? They will share—as long as I’ve given them the opportunity to do so.
After the lesson, we do the same thing. I will ask students how they thought the activity went, and what they might change in the future if they were the teacher. Students may naturally be intimidated to bring that feedback to you as the teacher. But if you form strong relationships so they feel safe to share, when you stand in front of them and welcome feedback on your lesson, they will provide it!
About Kari Pitstick
Kari Pitstick is a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher and track & field coach in Illinois. She’s also the Director of Digital Content for the Teach Better Team. She graduated from Illinois State University in 2015 with a bachelor’s in Middle Level Education, and American College of Education in 2018 with a master’s in Curriculum & Instruction.
She knew she wanted to teach at the middle level since she was in middle school herself. One of her main missions is to provide a safe and friendly environment for students to explore their passions as learners and as people.
Kari is an avid reader, spending most of her free time reading and writing, and she hopes to share that passion with all those around her—students and adults, alike!