Such a negative word.
So often teachers live in fear of failure. Failing our students, failing administrator’s evaluations, failing the state or the federal government’s requirements. Feeling like a failure.
Students do everything in their power to impress us and avoid failure.
But what is failure really? I believe that failure provides us with opportunities to learn and improve. I feel that if we redefined failure, we would give ourselves the chance to become more reflective about our practice and more willing to start over again.
As I have worked on this post and reflected on my thoughts about failure, I came across this article on ASCD about changing our perspective on failure in the classroom. This article and my reflections on failure remind me of an experience with my mom at the beach one summer day. My mom and I were watching a dad play with his three young children- running in and out of the ocean, building sand castles, and having a great time. When one of the kids fell down, the father reacted by smiling and saying something like, “Okay, let’s try again!”. The child smiled and hopped up, ready to play some more. My mom and discussed how we often observed mothers react by saying, “Oh no, are you okay?” which led to a child crying and feeling sad or upset, as if they had failed and could not fix their mistake. This example isn’t meant to be a lesson in parenting (or even a commentary on the different styles of men and women!), but to help us reflect on our attitudes and beliefs about failure.
I recently created a board on Pinterest called “Learning from Mistakes” to go along with a source set I was creating to fit the theme of “If at first you don’t succeed…”. The pins on this board are examples of the lessons we can take from failures. To me, this is all part of a journey of learning- we are all working to become “our next best selves,” as one of my professor recently said.
Reflective questions to consider:
- How can your mistakes, or failures, help you become better tomorrow than you were yesterday?
- How can we change the definition of failure for students in schools? What about for teachers?
- What have you succeeded at, after an initial failure?
- How can redefining failure develop a growth mindset?
Abecedary of Reflection: