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As a teacher with 29 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the... Read more

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We Didn’t Fail, We Just Didn’t Finish (Video)

During an emotional discussion following a challenge attempted three times by Harness the Stars Kids Opera Company, Rayn stated, “We didn’t fail, we just didn’t finish.” If we could all adopt this philosophy concerning failure and making mistakes, our world would be different.

In determining the theme for the opera, we must ascertain what students care about deeply, what really matters to them. What worries you? What makes you angry? What frustrates you? What makes you sad? What scares you? What brings you great joy? By asking these questions, we got a closer look into the deep thoughts and feelings of individual children. As students shared their personal stories, a common theme emerged. Failure.

“Failing a test makes me angry.”
“I’m worried that we won’t accomplish the opera.”
“My work frustrates me and I say, I QUIT!”
“The challenges in life worry me.”
“Failing frustrates me.”
“What really frustrates me is when I make a mistake and I complain about it.”
“I get angry when someone makes fun of me when I make a mistake.”
“I get sad when I keep doing something wrong, over and over again.”
“Hard work frustrates me.”

Since day one of school, when Parker presented his powerful metaphor of life not being easy, of life being “no digital clock”, this idea of making mistakes and falling short has echoed throughout our days, making us aware that if we wish to achieve our hopes and dreams, we must embrace setbacks and obstacles as learning experiences.

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Mary Ruth McGinn

About Mary Ruth McGinn

As a teacher with 29 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the learning experiences and opportunities of students and their families.

Sixteen years ago she had an experience that changed her life and altered her professional path in a profound way. She attended training sessions at The Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York City, spent nine intense days living the process of creating an original opera and learned how to replicate the experience with her students. She then began creating opera with her students and using the process of creating the opera as a vehicle through which to teach curriculum and life skills. The authentic purpose for learning coupled with the arts provided the perfect stage on which to construct a love for life-long learning.

She currently teaches at Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery Village, Maryland where she is creating another original opera with her third grade students.

Read more of Mary Ruth’s blog Learning for Real.

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