Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Failure first, shame second.

We crawl before we walk, and usually our first attempt to walk is not when our first step occurs.  I recently watched a child try to take their first step.  She tried and fell.  The parents congratulated her and started to cheer.  This made me question my own values when it comes to failure in my class.

Many times I have heard “Failure is not an option”.  We need to, as a society, realize that failure is not a derogatory word.  The English thesaurus claims that synonyms to failure are, “Breakdown”, “Disappointment”, and “closure”, while “success” is the antonym. 

This disappointments me greatly.  If you are scared of failure then you will NEVER try anything new.  We need to embrace failure and realize that if you are unsuccessful at something true learning can occur.  To believe that everyone will succeed at every game, task, or job they try is ludicrous.

Most conventional teaching methods empower failure by deducting marks, lower grades, and teaching students that when success is not met you will be judged accordingly.  In my classes, I empower students by allowing them take chances, to fail, and then reason as to why their method was not correct. 

So why does society treat failure with such disgust?  I believe the root is “shame”.  In my career, I have seen students who are scared to take chances, due to the possibility of embarrassment.  If you administer exams in you class, watch the face of the student when you hand back an exam that is a failing grade.  Almost every time this student will lower his/her head and either crumple the exam up or hide it immediately.  Is learning from failure really occurring? I think not.  This perpetuation must stop!

Classes should be a safe environment where students are allowed to be vulnerable, where shame is left at the door and failure is a learning word not a derogatory one.   

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