It’s Fine to Fail

Over the years that I have been teaching, I have noticed that, as a society, we have gravitated towards the position that everyone should be a success all the time. Teachers must consistently score high grades in their observations. Students must achieve. It is no wonder then, that we have more young people than ever who are afraid to fail. This fear of failure has dire consequences. Rather than go through the possibility that they might not pass their exams, they invent excuses for not attending and ultimately drop out. Sometimes you get students who are course hoppers. They jump from one course to another, but as soon as the course gets difficult they drop out.
The fear of failure, first struck me when I gave a mock exam to a group of students, many years ago. One of the good students on the course, failed dramatically. She had misread every question. We sat together in class and went through it. She couldn’t believe the answers she had written. I received a phone call from her parents a few days later. They were very upset that she had failed her mock. I pointed out that the whole purpose of a mock was a dummy run, which showed the students what to expect. Surely it was better to make mistakes in a mock, than an actual exam. They agreed, though I don’t think that they were convinced. Needless to say, in the exam, she read the questions correctly and came out with a very respectable B.
Although failure is not very nice. It is an essential part of our lives. I believe that you learn more through failure and struggling, than if things come easily to you. Although it makes you feel bad, it also makes you reflect. I have spoken to students about failure and it is something they really fear. As one student put it.
‘It makes me feel awful and I need other people to pull me out of feeling bad.’ Therein lies the problem. There is no resilience in the face of failure. No mind-set to go on. It is more seen as a reflection that they are a bad person. At a time when targets in all walks of life get increasingly demanding, maybe it’s time we got a little bit more realistic. We are not always going to be successful. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to achieve. But if we should fail, maybe we should use it as an opportunity to reflect, pool our resources and change our approach. See it as an opportunity to do things differently. As a result of our observations, my colleague has suggested that we do a lesson about failure. I think it’s a fab idea. I will post how we get on.


~ by envisioningutopia on March 6, 2012.

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