Today I want to talk about something called failure. It’s something we’ve probably all experienced. More importantly, it’s something our students experience. Some of our students experience this so much that they actually get immune to it. That’s why that student, when you hand out that paper, goes “Psh, I’m not doing that.” The reason that students fight back when we hand back that paper or are refusing to work isn’t because they are refusing to learn. It’s because they’re stuck in a cycle of failure. Because failure to them means judgement.
Failure to them means trying hard but getting nothing in return. In their entire academic career, they could have tried as hard as they could, and every time what do they get? An f, a d, or a failing grade.
We need to fundamentally change the way we look at failure in education. Fail, F-A-I-L, should not mean the end of a learning journey.
What F-A-I-L should stand for First Attempt In Learning. I’m going to say that again. F-A-I-L should stand for first attempt in learning. And this should be embodied by every student, teacher, and administrator that works in education. This means that failure means the first step in a journey. This means that Failure is expected for growth. More importantly, this means that it’s okay to fail because you’re going to get back up and you’re going to try again.
By changing the way students look at failure we can change the way they approach their work. They can no longer pull the escape hatch and refuse to work, because instead of saying “here you failed,” we say “it’s okay, try again.” When you change that conversation, you can change your classroom, you can change your school, and you can change education for the better. More importantly, you can teach better.