Failure is the new “F” word – this was the recent topic of a University of Phoenix issue of Faculty Matters. The issue tackles various aspects of failure – anywhere from the fear of failure to overcoming past failures.
Fear of failure is often the crux of the problem whether you are a teacher, student, administrator, coach or another other constituent in public education. We are constantly reminded that failure is unacceptable and for better or worse, we allow fear to paralyze us.
University of Phoenix President Bill Pepicello says, “Failure is a choice. It is a matter of perspective involving a learning curve and envisioning a clear path. Failure should never be followed with an attitude of “I failed, I should quit”, head hanging, tail tucking and walking away.” Mind you that failure will not come without critics, but I challenge you to welcome our critics because they will help us make ourselves better. All of us will experience setbacks and roadblocks, but you are in a unique position to instill in our students excitement, enthusiasm and innovation. You have the power to remove roadblocks and allow for some guided risk-taking.
In his autobiography Nelson Mandela said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Even the great Yoda understood fear. He said, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Remember, failure is a choice!
Current research will tell you that part of our societal problem has come from an abundance of praise – an effort to help raise our children’s self-esteem. But this has had its consequences and has not proven to boost student achievement or job performance. Resilience is born out of setbacks and an opportunity to develop a skillset.
So, what do we do to combat the “F” word. First, we must talk about the consequences of fearing failure and we must understand that failure is essential to success. We must help students to understand and better define failure. We must create a safe place for students to fail by providing a safe learning environment and focusing on the steps that we need to take to improve. We learn from mistakes – that is if we learn to acknowledge them. If you haven’t read the New York Times bestseller “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom” by Amy Chau it can be summed up in just 8 words – the idea of achieving success at all costs. Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University tells us “everyone fears failure, but this generation fears failure more. They see things as more high stakes.” And isn’t that so true – from students achievement and accountability to fiscal responsibility – everything in our culture is high stakes.
I think Thomas Edison said it best and provides a perfect summary when he said this, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is just one more step forward.”
There is power and potential in every student that we serve here at Ovid-Elsie Area Schools and we must find a way to tap into that. Inspire and be inspired, get students actively involved, demonstrate your love as a life-long learner, and overcome adversity. Some of you will be overwhelmed and some will love it – I submit to you that those who embrace this attitude will love it.
And so it is with you. As you embark on a new school year I encourage you to strike the “F” word from your vocabulary and seek to turn failure into success. If teaching is your passion, then give your heart and soul to that passion! Set the stage for success with a firm foundation, a commitment to success and make sure that you are meeting the goals of your intended initiatives.
I wish you all a successful school year.