Is failure a word commonly used in your classroom, or a word that’s avoided at all costs? We all know that achieving success feels better than coming up short, but in many cases, the path to success is dotted with failures, large and small. As adults, we can pick out examples of such stumbling blocks in our lives that ultimately led to victories. From botched recipes that finally worked on the fifth attempt, to the lessons learned in bad job interviews that prepared us for future opportunities, let-downs often make success possible. For kids though, even small failures can feel crushing. Embracing shortcomings as part of the learning process in your classroom will lead students to develop a tenacity and confidence that only comes from working hard and overcoming challenges.
One of the most interesting parts of being a teacher is the mix of personalities present in a classroom on any given day. Some students may naturally find motivation in small failures, and seek out better ways to solve problems. Others, often those who are accustomed to success, are quickly disheartened by a low test score or critical feedback. By fostering a healthy appreciation of failure, teachers can help students from both ends of the spectrum enhance their problem solving skills and learn healthy ways to cope with disappointment.
Embracing imperfection may be as simple as enacting a policy that each quarter, the lowest quiz score will be dropped before final grades are calculated. It could mean creating a program that pushes students to “fail without fear,” or providing critical feedback on big projects long before a final draft is due. By welcoming failure into the classroom, students will begin to see success as a process, instead of an all-or-nothing proposition.