Every time I fail

There was a lively Twitter #satchat this morning and the topic was that fad du jour: Failure.

WW2 Poster

The moral imperative. Propaganda on the wall at Bletchley Park.

There were plenty of excellent observations and earnest calls for embracing failure as essential to the learning process. As someone who failed rather a lot in school (and done my share of it since) it’s a topic dear to me and one I have written on before.

And I am reminded of how schools can be such winners and so adept at enabling failure and  creating failures.  Here’s a few just for starters:

  • The grading system that labels and condemns.
  • Right and wrong answers rather than ideas and things that either work, work better, or don’t.
  • The relentless competitive focus on test and rankings and scores
  • The isolation of the individual learner (“Keep your eyes on your own work. No cheating.”)
  • The bubble test that substitutes right and wrong for meaningful assessment, feedback and reflection
  • The achievement oriented striving for awards
  • Competition and the racing to the top of the imaginary heap by all means necessary and available (Maybe we should make “30 days to Sharper Elbows” required reading in kindergarten.)
  • The harping on about grit and rigor that – intended or not – can create an impression of strength through misery. Rather than growth through joy they can deftly blame the victim for all shortcomings and enable unacknowledged privilege to thrive unchallenged.
  • Education as a limited commodity in short supply and being best, and top colleges, status and beating out the competition are the keys to success and happiness.JI5zRlAdb2_1386270797058
  • How too often the lessons of authentic learning – trial and error, discovery, experimentation, making, tinkering, prototyping, design thinking – are sidelined as extras rather than as key modes of classroom functioning. (“We do that on Tuesday and Friday at 2 0’clock. Now back to work.”
  • And then our fixed mindset that categorizes and labels children as “good at math” “intelligent” and “not a leader”. All those voices in our own heads should tell us loud and clear: What we think and how we say it make a difference to those who hear it.

And it brought to mind this poem by Judy Page Heitzman :

Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 1.54.18 PM

Alan Turing

Statue of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park


The Bombe

Inside the code-breaking bombe at Bletchley Park

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