I Feel Like a Fake

Confession time–I feel like a fake.

Earlier this week I decided to take on a new challenge: sketchnoting. I saw a tweet that pointed me to some resources and provided a few manageable first steps.

That afternoon, I found a copy of Mike Rohde’s The Sketchnote Workbook in town and bought a stylus to help me out (because, let’s be honest, I need all the help and confidence I can get). I got to work, and to make a long story short, here’s what I was able to put together by the end of the night:

IMG_0440Since I was pretty proud of how much I had accomplished, I shared my work with the world.

That looks great, right? I’m no artist, and that looks like I’m at least competent (if you disagree, you’re probably right… but no need to crush my dreams here). It looks great to see that eight hours after first considering the idea I’m taking care of business with a halfway decent sketchnote that’s ready to be shared on Twitter, right? But there’s a problem with this.

The problem is that if you look at where I actually started, it looks something more like this:

IMG_0441
The actual first attempt–practicing writing my letters (and not doing a great job)

I wasn’t about to share that. That’s what I work on with my 3 year old; it’s not what I need help with.

Except that it is.

It’s exactly where I needed to start. I needed the basics, and I  needed the eraser end of that stylus more than anything.

It didn’t take long for me to realize (1) that it was good for me to be working on something I enjoyed that stretched me and (2) that I needed to be more honest about my weaknesses and limitations

There’s no place for shame in learning. (tweet this)


There’s a lot of talk about the value of risk in education right now. It’s hard to spend much time reading online without coming across something–a new study, a new TED talk, a new insight in a tweet–that doesn’t touch on the value of trying something new.

But my experience hiding my first steps that I wasn’t proud of made me begin to wonder this:

At what point does an educator’s talk about risk become a safe place for him to hide? (tweet this)

We like safety, but I think we’ve done a good job of bringing the value of risk into our conversations. Still, I think we have room to grow in living out the implications of those conversations.

The frustrating thing to me is that I’ve been sitting on this “there’s value in risk/you can learn through failure” idea for far too long.

In the classroom, J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Address on the importance of imagination and the benefits of failure served as a point of departure for this conversation with students. Before I had every heard of Carol Dweck, I knew these ideas were important for people to consider. I don’t share that to say that I’ve been talking about this forever and it’s old hat for me. I share it to say that I’ve had this idea right in front of me since 2009, and I’ve done less with it than I should have.

Today is the last day of my contract for 2014-2015. We’re taking off on a little vacation for the better part of next week, but after we return, I am trying to set goals for professional growth that are fun and challenging. One of those is to get sketchnoting developed into a useful skill, but the bigger goal is to do what we so often ask teachers and students: try something new and learn through your failures.

I encourage you to do the same.

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