Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Journal 6

emmagulley's picture

"I talk to my student teachers about failure all the time because they don’t need my help with success.  Success is actually a naturally occurring phenomenon.  If something’s not going well, you know it and roll with it.  You need preparation for failure, not success.” (North, 26)

In some ways, it is when we fail and fall short that we learn.  Not only do we struggle with a concept to learn it and appreciate our understanding of it, but we also come to learn about ourselves and the fluid nature of the verb “learn” when we fall short of an assignment.  At my achievement-driven/grade-focused high school, I feel as though I was never given a chance to fail.  There were times when, if it looked as though a student was going to "fail" a class/assignment/etc, her parents or the administration would step in and make a customized "solution" to the situation for that student.  Failure didn't happen because there wasn't a chance for it to happen.  It was so stigmatized that it virtually didn't exist.  I think the school's denial of the option of failure ultimately did a disservice to its students--not only did we come to equate our selves with our records but we also all seemed to develop a colelctive phobia of "failing" grades, partially because I think a part of us felt as though they didn't actually exist.  (Even though my high school was definitely not the kind of place that handed out As easily...)  Furthermore, the denial of the option of failure also seems as though it could perpetuate the idea of valuing the final outcome, rather than the learning process.


alesnick's picture

relevant TED talks on value of failure to learning

Here's this:

And: there is so much interesting material in North, ch, 6, pertaining to failure/struggle -- how to honor this in our students, not shame or fear it.

alesnick's picture

eradicating failure, failure phobia

Why do you think the adults in this space were so afraid of youth failing that they would customize ways to make iit impossible?  I'm also really interested in your idea about "denial of the option of failure."  Yes, it can be an option, and as you say, the consequences of losing it are severe: anxiety, confusion, a focus on a distant end point rather than the lived now, and a sense of self as equated with one's record, not with one's being a child of the universe, capable of self-love within imperfection, struggle, and change.  How else did this erasure make itself known?