Learning from past mistakes is essential for future development, success and progression, and teachers are well-placed to ensure that their classrooms are safe places for students to acknowledge failures, and the steps needed to learn from mistakes.
In life, not everything goes to plan, but you can’t give up. Back to the drawing board before going back to it and trying again, however, learn not to dwell on mistakes… everyone makes them, so embrace them, suck it up, learn from it, try not to do it again. That’s how we progress! As a head teacher – one contributor noted, promoting failure as a step towards progress was important. But honestly – it can be the hardest thing of all to admit to making them. Many individuals are a product of a “no failure allowed” education, which can be a problem.
Reflecting upon how failure is viewed in your classroom is a big focus for many teachers. Some children respond positively, but a lot of children try to cover their mistakes and find it very difficult to admit to making them. Failure is part of life, it’s no big deal. Students just realise they need to learn it in more detail so become more engaged in the learning through discussions, examples and questions. Ultimately, it really does take a massive culture shift. You can see the distress sometimes. Especially true of those who don’t typically fail often. It’s natural that children want to succeed and its always interesting to note the children who really struggle with failure. It’s something children are growing used to in school as society realises its true value. Embrace the misconceptions and failures – make them into positive learning experiences. Do we view making mistakes in academic scenarios very differently from making mistakes in terms of behaviours, choices etc? Pupils bring a range of experiences re how failure is viewed at home. The school needs to give teachers direction on how to enable to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one – and a life skill.
However, there are levels of failure that are not acceptable. Such examples include: The Failure to try and the failure to respect others; failure to try. Give it a go, try it, put some effort in. But then that usually signals an underlying issue; failing to try, or to communicate why you can’t try at that time; Failure to be honest – I don’t mind if they don’t want to try, so long as they are honest about it. Allows for much more progressive discussion. It’s inevitable to make mistakes, lose temper, or be rude. But refusing to reflect on that is unacceptable.
What is the attitude to failure in your school for pupils? For pupils, its fine, encouraged. Do we practice what we preach though? Schools need to allow staff to suffer failure too in an understanding/acceptable environment. Also, a focus can be about inventions, mentoring, additional support to assist both wellbeing and academic ability.
Teaching is all about keeping things fun and innovative for you and your students! Not everything is going to go to plan, but be more willing to share ideas when you can also share the mistakes.
Failure is necessary to grow. We learn from mistakes and that if we’re not making mistakes, perhaps we’re playing too safe. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Pupils need to be taught that failure is all part and parcel of being human. To recognise that we can learn from our mistakes and move on. It’s important to link mistakes to succeed. If mistakes are celebrated as a learning tool, this can often lead to success. Exam success comes with hard work and if we’re not making mistakes, perhaps we’re not pushing ourselves to reach our full potential.
Summary compiled by Colin Hill
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