Sunday, February 05, 2012

Educon and Failure

As I go back to the opening panel at Educon my head starts spinning again. The question for the panel was about sustaining innovation. The panel consisted of folks (mostly) outside of education which typically results in conversations outside of the norm for us educators. It's a great way to start the conference.

The buzz on twitter and from those sitting around me was that the panel was missing the ideas of play and failure. Play did eventually get some conversation - not enough in my mind when discussing innovation, but some. I watch my daughters and my students and their play is full of innovation. It's amazing to watch.

Failure is the issue I wanted to hear more about. I had the opportunity, so I asked. I said that the folks on the panel weren't there because of their failures, they were there because of their many successes. They could praise failure all they wanted but how do we change attitudes in our society to make failure less of a negative. (There were no good answers to this which really doesn't surprise me - it's far from simple.)

One idea that flew around, however, is that we teachers could own up to our mistakes and failures more often. If our students saw us fail or err and grow and learn from it they might be more willing to do so as well. We have immense power as teachers and we need to be thoughtful about how we use it.

Another thought is to study the failures of others as much as we study their successes. Just like those on the panel, the people we study in school are studied because of the things they did well. Any one of those folks made mistakes and failed at various points in their lives but we don't talk about that. Doing so would help students recognize how common failure is and how much failing can help us.

Failure is one of those words that carries a lot of baggage. Unless we can change our attitudes about it I believe we are shortchanging our children and missing out on a lot of potential innovation.

Picture from Kevin Jarrett's flickr


brophycat said...

Hi Jen!
I agree with the notion that failure should be celebrated, and that learning from failure can lead toward many types of successes. I fear that our children are trying to achieve without experiencing failure~ which is unrealistic and a "crap shoot" in many instances.

Last night's Superbowl game is a perfect example. How many players on either team have celebrated nothing but success? Probably none of them. Yet, we rarely see their stories of failure.

One of my favorite writers of all time, Don Murray, wrote often about how his many failures were what made him the person and writer he later became. This is not my most favorite article, but it is a good one! Enjoy!

Jenny said...

@brophycat, Thanks for sharing that article. I, too, love Donald Murray and always enjoy his stuff.
The Super Bowl is a great example. I'm beginning to collect these sorts of ideas to shar with my students (and others) as often as possible.