Fail Better – Episode 042
I have a hard time using the word fail. It’s not my favorite word to use and I am convinced that the way you speak affects the way you think and your actions.
Therefore it’s a word that I avoid using in my classroom and in my personal life. Unfortunately, everyone I know loves to use the word fail.
In my classroom my students constantly talk about failing classes, epic fails; fail, fail. The word itself has taken a life of its own. There’s not a day that goes by in my classroom, where we are either in the middle of an interactive laboratory or are reviewing content, where a student risks embarrassment, goes out on a limb and with nervous anticipation says what they believe is the right answer; only to get it wrong.
My natural instinct is to look them straight in the eye, smile, and tell them how that’s a really good answer, and how it was very close to the real answer and please let me explain what the real answer is. No matter how big my smile can be, no matter how wonderful I can project the tone of my voice, inevitably, somebody says fail. It may not be the word itself; at some point the sense of failure lingers inside the room.
I feel that my attempts at combating failure, has failed. I have failed to stop failure from occurring in my classroom. It is without a doubt a blemish in my career and in my heart.
As a child, my mother always believed in me. My mother, with her 40-year-old child, continues to tell me how much she believes in me. She is without a doubt one of my biggest supporters. Whether it was dressing up as Frosty the Snowman in fourth grade trying to remember my steps and lines, or as the president of my HOSA club who forgot to order the pizzas for our Friday school fundraiser (and had to apologize to every single person in our school for not having any pizza), she continues to hold her ground, and continues to believe in me
That believe in me has carried me over in some very dark times, both professionally and personally. I value her words more and more each day as they continue to fuel me and inspired me to become a better version of myself today than I was yesterday.
Which is why as much as I hate to accept failure, I must accept it. As much as I despise the word and how it feels when those consonants and vowels come out of my mouth, I must except the fact that we live in a society the points out highlights and emphasizes failure.
I must sadly accept the fact, that I failed to remove failure from the language of my classroom.
Here’s what I can do…
I can fail better
You see, there is a sycophantic morose obsession in our society when it comes to failure. People are almost excited when someone that seems at the top of their game, fails. It’s been said that when we hold people up to a pedestal, like the way we hold our heroes, we hold them to a much higher standard than we hold ourselves.
And we love to see them fall…
It means they were human…
The classroom is no different; there is always going to be the “smart kids”, “the dumb kids”, “the poor kids”, “the rich kids”, etc…
Whatever category you, our students, or anybody else can fit them into, these categories were not designed by children, rather they are absorbed by children because of the adults around them. Prejudice, stereotypes, and pre-conceived notions of people are all learned by children and taught by adults
And if failure is the great equalizer in the classroom; if failure somehow helps wipe the slate clean in the minds of our studnets, helping see everybody in the classroom as equals…
And if failure helps bring down those who we feel are above us, as our tabloids filled with scandal seem to point out,