Friday, January 9, 2015

Give it a TRY

With all due respect to Yoda, I'm compelled to share this post with you.  

Years ago as I stood in front of my 5th grade students I saw many faces that were quick to give up or not even try.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was 8am and I was fuming, I fully intended to give a stern lecture and really set the tone.  Then around 8:30am I walked out into the hallway and began greeting students.  Within a couple of minutes my demeanor was changing.  My young 5th graders were telling me stories, giving hugs and full of joy to begin the day.  As the last couple stragglers put away their jackets and walked in I had decided to change my approach.  I cared deeply for each of my kids, I didn't want to be angry.

So, this is what I did.  I pulled my students up front and we all sat down on the floor.  I looked into the eyes of each one of my students and I told them I was disappointed.  I was disappointed in what I was seeing in class.  I was disappointed that several students were giving up, not trying and taking the easy way out.  My tone was soft and caring, but I was honest with my students.  I looked at them and most were looking down.  Many of them knew that they were not putting forth their best.

I paused, I looked at them and I said, "I can teach you a lot, but what I want you to learn in this class is that your success depends on one person...YOU!"  One of my young ladies raised her hand and then said, "Mr. Gilpin you point us in the right direction, but it is up to us to walk."  I smiled and nodded.

From that day forward we had a class mantra, TRY.  That's it.  We decided giving up, quitting and pouting was not going to accomplish anything.  Whether we succeed or fail was not going to define us, our defining characteristic was that we would TRY.  The second half of the year was positive. Day in and day out the students in my class and me, as the teacher, tried new things and we weren't going to let failure define us.

In any situation, the best thing you can do is the right thing; 
the next best thing you can do is wrong thing; 
the worst thing you can do is nothing. 
- Theodore Roosevelt

That story, though different, reminds me in some ways of what it is like to be an educator.  It can be easy to throw our hands up and stop trying.  Sometimes it is easy to blame our legislature, lack of funding or administration.   Yet, if we are honest, we have enough tools for success.

This year teachers have adopted a new math curriculum, learned writer's workshop model and have implemented strategies to personalize the learning in each classroom.  This isn't easy.  But this is what we do.  

As I link Theodore Roosevelt's quote to our 5th grade mantra, I believe we must TRY!  We must try to reorganize our day.  We must try to prioritize our lessons.  We must try to change old practices. We must try to continuously move forward.  

A new year brings new found hope.  Then, as we jump back into things it can be so easy to fall back into routines and habits.  I urge you to stay ambitious!  Try something new, and better yet, don't wait for the next semester...TRY!


Monday, January 12th:  Happy BDay to Julie Oliver
Monday, January 12th:  4th/5th grade Spelling Bee at the CAC 6pm
Monday, January 12th:  Penny Boxes go home for our, "Pennies for Leukemia Challenge"
Monday, January 12th:  Winter Lego Club begins 4-5pm
Tuesday, January 13th:  4th grade to MSU Planetarium
Tuesday, January 13th:  Bible Release Day
Tuesday, January 13th:  Admin meeting 9am
Tuesday, January 13th:  Winter Minecraft Club begins 4-5pm
Wednesday, January 14th:  K-2 Assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, January 14th:  Discussing NWEA Winter Testing at PLC's
Thursday, January 15th:  CP Federal Credit Union Day
Thursday, January 15th:  Winter Minecraft Club 4-5pm
Friday, January 16th:  8am Staff Meeting in Mrs. Nash's room
Friday, January 16th:  AM Lockdown Drill

Articles Worth Reading:

Failure @stumpteacher

Pregnant Teachers @HuffPostEDU

Videos Worth Watching:

One More Game (6 min)

What a great take between Jimmy and Nicole (9 min)

Gift Giving that will make you feel good! (6 min)


  1. I love how this post is half inspiration and half opening the conversation to other opportunities for learning (the links and the week at a glance). Your structure of a story also really resonates with me.

    I believe in the mantra you are trying to create here. "Try" is one of the best things you can ask someone to do (a student or an adult). But, I do think the struggle is real for figuring out "how to try." Trying requires that you have enough support to make the attempt. Trying also requires that you have enough context for the learning that in front of you.

    I think that the mantra is a requirement, but frustration and apathy are very real consequences of seeing others "try" around you and believing that you don't have what you need in order to do the same. How can we make sure that the students and teachers around us can make good on your mantra? How can we lead in a way that support for each attempt a part of the equation?

    P.S. This comment is a part of the #C4C15 project. Find out more here:

  2. You brush off Yoda but I'm with him - do or do not! Rather than 'try' I've substituted a 'do your best' mantra - seize the opportunity, be positive, believe you can do it. There was once a great song/slogan about accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, don't mess with Mr Inbetween. For me 'try' is an in between word. Just saying. If you got a great response to 'try' than all good but Yoda's onto something!