I am coming to realize more and more that approximation is an important step. In writing, in reading, in thinking, in living. We seem to always be trying to be like something and as we try to be it, we approximate.

My colleague it worried about her class who is blogging using Kidblog for the first time. “They seem to just write only a sentence or just a joke or a few fun facts. They aren’t all writing a small moment story. Any suggestions?” she emailed to me. I replied that she first can celebrate that they are trying to do it. They are approximating.

I am reminded of Colleen Cruz teaching me at the Digital and Media Institute last April about the Eight Conditionals for Learning.

Conditions of Learning  Brian Cambourne 1988

  1. Immersion – exposure to it…
  2. Demonstration – let me show you…
  3. Engagement – brain researchers will say it is the most important, the wanting to learn! EX: when we are afraid, we can’t learn. Instead, we have to work to help all feel like they want to learn
  4. Expectations – the expectation that ALL will learn it and the learners have the expectations that they WILL learn.
  5. Responsibility – the learner takes the responsibility
  6. Approximation – while learning, it is messy…you try and fall and try again and approximate it as you go. “I fake it until I make it.” In the digital world, tools are always changing, making it hard at times to get enough practice time. I though,  often the digital tools make our approximations look pretty good!! (Ex: Kidblog and iMovie)
  7. Practice – through more practice and approximation and feedback, I get better at it!
  8. Feedback – study what is working and what is not. THIS is most important part as a teacher!!! This is why video games are so successful – they give feedback (next level or earn a badge) to the player!

Reminding myself of these Eight Conditions is helpful. As I reflect back to my blog post on Saturday, I now realize I need to do ALL eight of these. Instead, as a teacher, I’ve been focused on demonstrating (and seeing all those that aren’t getting it) and planning for high engagement (which works only some of the time) and being way too hard on myself about my responsibility as a teacher. I read this post shared on twitter that reminded me that my year with my students is “just a tile in their mosaic.” That image helps me put my responsibility into perspective. It helps me to breathe. Also, I’m realizing that it is fine for me to “fake it until I make it” as a 3rd grade teacher. It is just my second year as 3rd grade teacher in a brand new school. And my fourth year returning to the classroom after being a reading specialist for eight years. I’d say, based on that, I’m approximating pretty well!

Today I am celebrating that my approximation as a 3rd grade teacher is fine . I am celebrating that I get another day to practice my teaching (and I fully admit that it helps that I have a 2-hour delay due to the weather before my practice has to start). And my feedback will filled with simply watching my students as they immerse, demo, engage, expect, approximate, practice and provide me with feedback.

Because in life, approximations are perfectly acceptable.

9 thoughts on “Approximation

  1. Frances A Mccrackin says:

    This is wise and helpful in so many ways.
    I love the list and will use it. It helps remind me that even though we are all about high rigor, learners need to go through stages. Even proficient teachers go through stages! We move back and forth through the stages as we take risks and try new things. Which, we must remind ourselves, is good to do and good to model.
    You line about many technologies making our efforts look quite good is something to ponder. And I agree that one reason kids love computer games is because they give immediate and NONJUDGEMENTAL feedback, as well as infinite chances to try again! Your post is giving me patience with myself and my students, and the larger/longer perspective.


    • sallydonnelly11 says:

      I so appreciate your kindness and understanding as I grapple with teaching this year. Your comments mean more than I can put into words! So glad we are staying connected through writing as we continue to ponder!


  2. msosterman49 says:

    I was happy to read how you are turning a corner on how you are looking at things. “And my feedback will filled with simply watching my students as they immerse, demo, engage, expect, approximate, practice and provide me with feedback.” I smiled as I read this closing and felt my friend on her way!


    • sallydonnelly11 says:

      I so appreciate your comments and understanding. I am definitely growing in places I really didn’t want to this year and your support in person and here, smiling at my writing keeps me going. I am so glad we are staying connected through writing!


  3. Lanny Ball says:

    I consistently rely on Cambourne’s Conditions for Learning in my professional development and love how you brought them up here. Approximation is so important, as it give kids permission to not “be perfect.” I think as teachers we sometimes set expectations that kids should all “meet the same standards.” But anyone who’s read a shred of research knows that is ridiculous! Thanks for your reflections here. It’s a reminder that we’re all in some state of approximation. 🙂


  4. johnrereads says:

    I think we all create a more wonder than we think we do.
    As an author I care about once sort of said – I am not getting the quote exactly right – perhaps the plan B is to just be


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