Monday, December 15, 2008

Failure, and the Right to Succeed

Da dada da da da da da, the Lone Ranger is on his way. He will solve all problems. He will rescue poor grades. He will ride in on a white Accord and save the day. No chance of failure here. Just raise your hand and he will come to your rescue. Wait a minute.

Micheal Jordan said:
I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.

So what is reasonable to expect from a student when they walk into Reading Workshop? Should I expect failure? Or better yet, demand it? Shouldn't students have the right to fail? Shouldn't students have the opportunity to fail? If I rush in as soon as a student struggles, it seems like there is no chance of failure. This means a there is a limited chance to succeed.

So often in schools today, we will go to absolutely any means to prevent failure. If students even struggle, someone is demanding a parachute to immediately stop the decent. Many educators see our job as rescuers. Failure is seen as a terrible thing that must be avoided at any cost.

Perhaps we should redefine our role. Our job is not preventative maintenance. At the first sign of a break-down, we should not be coming to the rescue. There is no need to charge in at the first sign of a raised hand and save our students from struggling. Better yet, let them work through a problem, and figure out how to succeed.

In the words of Samuel Smiles:
We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.


Seth Roberts said...

I think you will only win some if you lose some but that really helps you because you learn from your mistakes. My mom tells me that you have to lose sometimes to figure out how to get better at something. Also if you keep practicing you can only get better.