Wisdom Begins with Wonder

A safe place to fail

“Leap and the net will appear.” – John Burroughs

Credit: Torbein Rønning via http://www.flickr.com/photos/torbein/3504531/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Credit: Torbein Rønning via http://www.flickr.com/photos/torbein/3504531/sizes/m/in/photostream/

One of the greatest things we can establish in our schools and our classrooms (not to mention in our homes for our own kids) is a culture of failure.

Chew on that for a moment.  Is that un-American?  We live in a success driven culture.  Many of us walk around every day terrified of failure.

So, what do I mean by establishing a culture of failure?

I mean creating a space where it is safe to try and fail.  A space where one can make mistakes without fear of repercussions, learn from those mistakes and try again.  What I don’t mean is giving students failing grades.  I also don’t mean failing in life or causing irreparable harm to anyone or anything.

Teachers need the freedom to try new and different things in their classrooms to ignite authentic learning.  Many of those things have the potential to result in failure.  How is a teacher ever going to become great by staying in their comfort zone?

We need to model failure for our students (here is where I really shine – I model failure for my students really well).  Try and fail in front of them.  Do it with grace and class.  Explain what you were trying to do.  Don’t make excuses.  Ask the students for feedback.  Ask them how to improve for next time.  Genuinely listen to their feedback, go back to the drawing board and try again.

Make your classroom a safe place for students to do the same thing.  Encourage them to shoot for the moon.  Let them fail, dust themselves off, learn from their mistakes and try again.  Don’t let the fear of failure impede greatness.

You gotta take off the training wheels at some point, right?



2 comments ↓

  • #   malcolm on 08.06.10 at 2:33 pm     

    excellent. i teach in a community where not getting into mcgill is considered a fail…wtf?
    i am trying new things this september…i expect some failures…just not enough to lose my gig!


  • #   Mr. Rice on 08.06.10 at 2:35 pm     

    Yeah, hence the “do no harm” caveat.

    Speaking of which, shouldn’t educators have a Hippocratic Oath of their own?


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