If You Can’t Make Learning Real, It Doesn’t Count


Braeden learning about stages of matter then teaching me using Minecraft

Braeden learning about stages of matter then teaching me using Minecraft

Dave Guymon wrote a book titled, If You Can’t Fail, It Doesn’t Count. It’s a great book that challenges readers to explore their fears, take risks and act without thought of failure. The title is what stuck out for me and drew me to the book which may be the reason that I connected the title to “real and relevant” learning. For some, that is a risk in and of itself.

Yesterday, I was talking to a colleague who has made the jump from high school teacher to middle school. She mentioned that middle school students were different because they did not have the automatic buy-in of “I need to learn this for the test to graduate”, which spoke volumes as to how she communicated the necessity of learning to her students.

“You need to learn this for the test.”

I will admit that in my early years of teaching, I have used that phrase and I am horrified by it. It took me saying it a few times before I ever heard the words come from my mouth and at that moment I stopped saying it and instead dug deeper into my content in order to make it more real. In doing so, I learned that it couldn’t even be just about digging deeper into my content, it was about connecting it to my student’s lives.

As a math teacher, I found that the more we could connect to real life, the more that students owned their learning and that was important. I soon acknowledged that my job was to teach them how to connect our learning goals to their own ideas. That was the only way that ownership of learning happened at a much deeper level and exceeded short term memorization for a test.

If you aren’t making the learning real for students and connecting to their lives and ideas, you’re doing it all wrong.

The lesson here is this…

If you want students to truly buy-in to what you are selling, make it real or you may as well be teaching thin air. If it’s not real, it’s not learned.

If you can’t make it real, it doesn’t count.

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