Failure...that's a scary word, especially right now for educators. We are under pressure to push young children to perform on tests with increasingly higher and higher stakes. These same tests are tied to our own evaluations and in the state of Ohio, one high stakes test is actually tied to whether or not children, 8 and 9 year old children, will be able to pass 3rd grade! So, yes, failure is a scary word. But what if we worry less about what is on the test and more about what our students need? Scary thought,
right? Or is it scarier to have such a laser focus on a test that measures students' performance on just one day? I think we all know the answer.
I find inspiration in many places. One of those places is in professional books. Recently, I've been reading Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. I can't seem to stop reading pages 48 and 49. I have literally read these two pages 20 times. The message needs to be engrained into the mind of every educator and every politician who attempts to "reform" education.
Failure vs. Feedback. That's it! That's the answer.
Dave Burgess says, "The key to failing without quitting is to shift your paradigm to believe there is no such thing as failure-only feedback."
No failure? Only feedback? Is it even possible to succeed without failing. I don't think it is.
What if there was no failure, only feedback?
Think of the possibilities! What would happen if teachers and students were not afraid of failure? What if failure was used as feedback? What would education really be like if everyone-teachers, parents, students and policy makers changed their thinking about failure?
Here are some words of wisdom from Dave Burgess that will help us refine our
views of failure:
1. If you haven't failed in the classroom lately, you aren't pushing the envelope far
2. Any endeavor that doesn't hold the possibility of failure can't accomplish anything
3. When your students aren't engaged it isn't helpful or empowering to blame them-
they are providing you with some critical feedback: what you are doing is not
engaging...try to evaluate and learn from that feedback.
Educators, will we embrace failure and use it as feedback or will we let failure, or even worse, the fear of failure, stifle us?
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.