Friday, August 28, 2015

Failing at Failure

This summer I'm reading and commenting on the book What If Everybody Understood Child Development? by Rae Pica.

Chapter 20: Failure Is an Option

Do you remember a time when you made a mistake or failed at something? How did you feel? What did you learn? Looking back, do you wish it never happened or are you glad it did?

Today in many classrooms, students are worried about failing. Not failing a subject or failing a test. They are worried about making a mistake or not coming in first.

Many homes cultivate this anxiety. Parents try to protect children from making a mistake (or suffering consequences of a mistake). They don't want the child to feel bad or have a negative experience or not be successful. But that's not the way life will treat them.

Schools cultivate this anxiety. Get it right. There's only one right answer.  A bad grade will reflect on your entire educational career. Your teacher will be disappointed. If you don't do well, your teacher may lose her job. Now that's pressure.

But the lack of failure can result in a lack of resiliency, the ability to recover from discouragement or adversity. The lack of failure or the fear of it can result in less risk-taking, less willingness to try something new, less experimenting to solve a problem. Kids will stick with what they know will work so they will be "right."

Rae Pica mentions Carol Dweck (someone I've been hearing a lot about lately). Dweck has proposed a theory that an individual's mindset impacts what he does. A fixed mindset believes that intelligence and abilities are predetermined and unchangeable so the individual works hard to prove (and defend and not push the limits of) his intelligence. A growth mindset believes that intelligence and talent can be developed with effort, so the individual will work to increase his abilities, often making mistakes along the way.

I've heard kids in my church kindergarten class ask, "What do we do here?" I think that can be attributed to doing things the "right way" and not making a mistake. I've been in a classroom of second graders, silent because no one wants to hazard an answer to the question I've just asked. I've seen kids upset because someone else came in first. it can be disappointing to lose but kids need to learn that they cannot always come out on top. And if they worked hard and tried their best, they did what they could do. And they can work harder to improve.

My rope light FAIL

Everyone wants to be a winner, a success, the one on top. But, really, who learns the most? One who can breeze through? Or one who works hard and maybe even fails? I learn the most when I fail (even if I wish I succeeded). I want to keep trying different things, to take risks in my teaching and learning.

We want kids who work hard and try to improve, who take risks and experiment to solve problems. Kids who fail and keep at it.

Some links from the book---
And a few more---

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