Saturday, October 3, 2015

Failure is a Good Thing

I have heard a lot about failure recently. Last year I was at a conference where the keynote speaker spoke about failure for his whole address. I have read articles and blog posts promoting the good part about failure. (When I say "failure" I don't mean academically failing, like having to repeat a grade, but failing at an experience and picking yourself up and moving on.) Imagine what a different world we'd be in today if innovators like Steve Jobs or Malala gave up the first time they failed.

This is something I have to agree we don't teach enough. In the past, maybe 10 years or so there has been such a change in our beliefs about children and their self-esteem. We have moved to be a culture where we feel we have to protect the feelings of our children and let everyone win. I have a friend who works at a daycare center where the only way they are allowed to play musical chairs is if everyone sits down every time the music stops-you don't take any chairs away so no one loses and has to get upset. I actually have a theory that this why we have so many kiddos today who give up super-easily. My sister has college students in her English classes who complain the books they have to read are too hard or have no problem copying parts of other people's work instead of putting in time on developing their own. There are kids who would rather quit the team than put the work in it would take to become a winner. I think fear of failure even ties the hands of colleagues and prevents them from trying new ideas. Luckily I have no problem falling on my face on a regular basis! :)

So what do we do about this. I told you guys that I'm using's lessons for my Coding Club, but what I've found that you can use these lessons with all students. This one we did this week was to take 10 toothpicks and 10 gumdrops and make the biggest standing structure that you can. Was it easy? Nope. They started out just putting toothpicks in gumdrops and making a big string-but now how do you make that stand?

The fact is you can do these kinds of activities throughout the year with any materials. Cups, marshmallows, popsicle sticks or any combination. Make a goal who can make the biggest, strongest or maybe give a certain height it needs to get to and see what it takes to get there, if you can get there. If you can't it's ok and we'll think about how to make it better and try again another day. We can learn a lot from our failures and I think that's an important lesson for our kiddos.

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  1. I completely agree. My cousin, also a teacher, wants to write the book, "Failure IS an option." :)

    1. What a great title! I would definitely read that book.