Yoda's tearImage by niallkennedy via Flickr

Over the past couple of days, I have changed a lot of things on my blog and I feel very good about the direction it and I are heading.  One of the things that has always bugged me is when students, teachers, administrators or parents say that they are “trying”.

What is trying? A built in excuse to not do something? “Gee I tried and just didn’t get it, so now I don’t have to do anymore.”  Trying is not good enough.

Below is a clip from Star Wars where Yoda is attempting to teach Luke.

Yes I have been a Star Wars fan since the original came out and this scene of all the different ones has always stuck with me.

Yoda “You must unlearn what you have learned”.

Luke “Okay, I’ll give it a try”.

Yoda “No!  Try not!  Do or do not.  There is no try.”

In education we try things, we have our students try to learn what we are presenting, and we say we are trying to educate our students or make education better.  I for one am tired of the excuse “We are trying.”  Trying is a built in excuse that says we have done enough, we tried.  That’s bullshit and we all know it.
We need to focus more on the “do”.

  • What can we each do to ensure that we educate the students who are left to our charge?
  • What can we do to ensure that our students are prepared for life beyond school?
  • What can we each do to prepare ourselves to be ready when the students do show up in classrooms?
  • What can we each do to make our schools a better place to teach and work?
  • What can we each do to change educational policy at the state and federal levels that we don’t agree with?
  • What do we do with laws, regulations and edicts that we believe are not in the best interests of our students, but we have to do anyway?
  • What do we do to make education more child-centered?

Each one of these questions have been written about, blogged about, talked about, chatted about, twittered about ad nauseum – we have tried to find answers for each of those questions.  Maybe it is time to stop trying and start doing.

HOW DOES THIS RELATE TO SPECIAL EDUCATION?  In Special Education there is unfortunately a mindset that as long as a student is “trying” that is good enough.

That is not good enough.

Students should be doing at their own individual level or ability, not some artificial expectation.  The “try” is good enough attitude has led to a system that generates learned helplessness in many of our special education students.  The bar has been set to a point where they only have to appear to try and “we” or the system considers them successful or making adequate progress which many times they are not.

That is a terrible disservice to those students, but one that I believe happens every day in many schools everywhere.   Learned helplessness is something that many Special Education students need to unlearn, before they can progress to being able to learn how to do the things they can do for themselves.

We need to remember and ensure that what teachers are attempting to teach our Special Education students is at their “do” level, not the teacher’s try level.  That way they can experience success and be motivated to do more.  The present system of try only builds upon failure after failure which means the student does not usually get to “do”.

Then we wonder why so many who try – fail.

Do means to keep doing until what you need to do is done.

I believe that I now have a new tagline for my blog, while “Have you made a difference today? How? means a great deal, I think that Yoda’s quote is more powerful and applicable to the new direction of this blog.

Try not.  Do or do not.  There is no try – thank you Master Yoda.