Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Create A Culture of Failure

I want to create a culture of failure in the teachers and students I work with on a daily basis.  You may be thinking what??  This is the age of standardized testing and accountability!!  In some respects, if you feel that way you may be right, but I would say if that is indeed true then there is an even bigger need to create a culture of failure in our schools.

For our students to succeed in the world they are going to live in they need to be very good at problem solving and be flexible in their thinking.  Preparing for standardized tests does just the opposite.  Those assessments teach students there is one right answer and a specific way to get to that answer.  I would say these assessments and the preparation that some teachers/schools do to get students ready for them are sucking the creativity and flexibility our of our students.  And in turn taking away the joy of learning for all.

Failure and doing something wrong is a great way to learn.  The wrong way can lead to the right way if teachers and students are willing to fail.  In our society failure is a dirty word and the fear of failure paralyzes many people.  Most would rather do nothing than do something and fail.

We need to allow students (and teachers) the freedom to fail.  Encourage students to try something when they are struggling.  Don't be in a hurry to give them the solution.  Use what they have done as a teaching tool.  When I taught high school math I would have students stop by after school and say "I don't get #21!!"  My reply would be "what did you try?"  If the answer was nothing I told them I would help them once they helped themselves by doing something.  At the beginning of the semester this was difficult for many, but once they understood there was no punishment for doing it wrong and their wrong answer could be used to help get the correct one students began to be ok with doing something wrong as long at it helped them learn.  And isn't that the goal?  Have students help themselves learn?!?!?

The same holds true for teachers.  They need permission to fail.  If a teacher comes to me and wants to try something (as long as it is sound instructionally) I tell them to go for it and not worry about if it does not go well.  If you try something you think will be good for students and it does not go well chances are you can improve what you did.  But you can't do that if you don't try!!  Teachers worry about "what if it doesn't work?", my response is "what if it does?".

Dr. Reeves said this at a conference "try it, test it (assess it), improve it".  We can do this, if we are ok with failure. Don't be afraid of failure, embrace it and grow from it!!  Instill this in your teachers, teammates, and students.  If you do, our kids will be better off for it!!

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