"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently" -- Henry Ford
This is it – the start of a brand new year! I spent some time over the winter break coming up with my mantra for the new year: FAIL. This is the year I want to encourage students and teachers to FAIL. Now, before you start questioning whether lack of sun exposure during our cold and cloudy Canadian winter is making me talk crazy, check out my favourite definition of FAIL in the image below:
You need first to fail in order to learn. This is true whether in terms of trying out a new teaching methodology, designing a new unit, or using new technology in the classroom. The great thing about our profession is that we get to start fresh all the time - new units, terms, semesters, and every new school year. We keep what has worked, and learn from what has FAILED in order to plan for an even better learning environment in our classrooms. FAILing = future success, so long as we learn from our experiences and use the information gained to iterate and improve!
We expect our students to fail. We know that we are exposing them to new content and concepts, and that they might make some mistakes or experience some frustration before they come to that “a-ha” moment where the light bulb goes on and they actually “get it”. We encourage them to keep trying, because we know that with each failure they are actually learning what DOES work as well as what doesn’t, and that eventually this will help them put the puzzle pieces together in their brain in a way that makes the content make sense for them. Failure is the foundation of inquiry, of invention, of innovation, and of all meaningful, internalized learning. Failure is good!
As educators we often have such high expectations of ourselves that we won’t give ourselves permission to fail, especially in front of our students. I especially see this in terms of trying out new technology tools to help achieve learning goals in the classroom. We won’t use the SMARTboard that is hanging right on the wall in our classroom because we feel that we are not yet an “expert” at using it. We decide against doing a super-engaging video editing project with our students because we have never used YouTube Editor ourselves. We shy away from trying out Google Docs for an amazing, collaborative group project because we aren’t as comfortable with it as much as a more traditional, desktop-based word processing program. Why the double-standard, friends?! If we want our students to fail in order to learn, why won’t we be kind to ourselves and expect the same in our own learning? You don’t become an “expert” or even “comfortable” with a new tool without trying – and yes, failing – at using it a few times. If you allow yourself to try and fail, especially in front of your students, you might find that you actually improve the learning situation in your classroom. It is not only beneficial to model lifelong learning to your students, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate ways that you problem-solve and persevere when a concept or answer does not come easily on the first try. In a culture often focused on instant gratification and easy (not best) solutions, by failing in front of your students, you would actually be teaching them important virtues such as creativity, determination, flexibility, and patience. What a gift!
I hope that you FAIL a lot in 2016, and that you encourage your students to do the same. I especially hope that you give yourself opportunities to FAIL with new technology and tools that will help you achieve intended learning outcomes/standards in your classroom in new and creative ways. Make this a wonderful year….. try something new and FAIL!
Sketchnote done by the amazing Sylvia Duckworth @Sylvia Duckworth