When you put your teacher hat on - what does it mean for your students to fail? I know before I started doing student leadership work, it had a lot of consequences for my students.
Failure meant the end.
Not the end of everything, but it was not something we celebrated. More recently, and especially during the 2020-2021 school year, I started to see failure very differently.
When a student asked how they could improve their grade, or how they could do better - I asked myself, “What is the purpose of this assessment, or this evaluation?”
Do my students who get 100s or As on everything learn anything from me? I used to think, “Of course, that is why they got an A,” but I don’t think so anymore.
Those who are already successful, know it already. Maybe they have mastered a new way of communicating the information, or the actual content, but if they got an A or 100 on the first try, I didn’t help them learn anything.
In school, we celebrate the As and 100s far more than we celebrate failures, which on the surface, seems to make sense. Think of the successful students - they are the top of the class, right? Wrong. The most successful students are the ones who struggle, students right in the middle who want nothing more than to be seen. Sometimes they work SO hard to get good grades, and often don’t ‘fail,’ so they never learn how to fail bravely, and are AFRAID of failure.
We learn so much more from our failures than our successes, but we don’t teach students that in the system of education. We celebrate the 100s or the As. There are so many students who work every spare minute to pass, and yet all they might get is a high five (if that). More importantly, they might have self satisfaction - which is why they end up being so successful later in life.
But the system never celebrated those struggles. Why not?
I know that failing for me personally today is challenging, and some of the things I am doing have me failing A LOT. I don’t have the coping skills, or the right strategies yet, but they are coming, and I love it when I find a path through - it is so rewarding, SO MUCH more rewarding then the successes that come really easily.
I guess that is what I want you to think about as we enter the 2021-22 school year - what do you want to celebrate for your students? The system is going to take a lot more to change, but you can start in your classroom. When you give an assessment, and return the work to the students, celebrate those students who put in effort and let them know that is what you value in your classroom. I used to give stickers to kids - and they loved that. As juniors in High School, to get a sticker meant the world to them. I will bring it back this year - for the kids I see doing the work and failing bravely.