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