With the new school year starting for me in just over a week I have been thinking about what I want my mantra for the year to be. What is it that will not only raise the achievement of my students, but also that of my own work and the teachers in my faculty. "Fail more often" is going to be my starting point for the year as I think it has the potential to be the path to greater success. This mantra is similar to what was said during my leadership training with Education Changemakers, quite often the program facilitators Aaron Tait and Dave Faulkner would say "Don't worry, be crappy". This idea really resonated with me and fit well with some current reading I have been doing on the Growth Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck.
The idea of failure, no matter how small, is debilitating to lots of people. They would rather not try and avoid failure, rather than give it a go and having the possibility of not being successful. Why is this... because generally as a society we are very intolerant of failure, it becomes a label on the person rather than a commentary on the situation. Instead of "I failed to get this right", the internal dialogue becomes "I'm a failure", instead of "that program didn't really have the intended outcomes" it becomes "They are bad at their job". This view has to change, students need to see that failure is a major component of success, it is not the opposite of success. They need to see that failure is an important part of the learning process and that it is vital to fail if you are going to identify and rectify those areas of weakness.
So why do I think this idea of failure is so important, well I have a few main reasons. You will have to forgive me with this post, I am a bit of a fan of a nice quote and this post is going to contain a few
I am curious to see how this goes and how students and staff respond to my quest to fail more often, but I will comment on this as the year progresses.
I have been thinking about my previous post on the importance of developing a growth mindset towards all aspects of your education and how this can be done. The word 'yet' has the potential to dramatically improve your outlook on your education and encourage you to try harder, but why?
Saying 'I am not good at Maths' gives the impression that it is a feature that defines you, it says that you are just a person that will never have the ability to do well in the subject, it just isn't in your DNA. However by saying 'I am not good at Maths yet' it completely changes this outlook. It does acknowledge some difficulty in understanding, but it also acknowledges that it is something that can be improved on, it is something that is possible to attain. 'I can't do it' says that no matter how hard I try, it just won't happen, so extra effort is pointless. 'I can't do it yet' means that with extra effort there can be improvement and if I continue to work and continue to improve then I can eventually overcome those difficulties.
This is a message I need to instill in my students and in my feedback them. Whenever they say 'I can't do it' I need to make sure I get them to also say 'yet'. I don't want them to take this easy option as it limits their improvement and their outcomes.
Senior Leader of Pedagogical Innovation and Mathematics Coordinator in Regional South Australia.
Opinions in this blog are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer.