Saturday, April 11, 2015

Failure is Only Delay

This month at #reflectiveteacher at +TeachThought we are reflecting and sharing our thoughts on Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire! This book is giving me lots to think about as I finish out this school year!

This week we have a really great blogging prompt. Should I allow my students to fail? As an educator, do I work to keep my students from experiencing failure or do I step aside and allow them to make mistakes along the way and experience that feeling? 

First, let me address failure. Yes, I absolutely believe students should experience a small amount of failure as they move through school. I do admit that "failure" is a strong negative word, but in my experience I see many students do minimal work but still want a maximum grade (Could this be the 9-12 teacher in me blogging?). I do like that many teachers are moving to showing students they are "not yet proficient" and are using other more positive terms and rubrics from the idea of standards-based grading. This is an effective way of helping students to see where need to grow more or further develop those skills. I like this quote here:

I believe that growth comes from the reaching and the stretching of oneself, and we can help our students move towards proficiency and higher skills through measurement, feedback and reflection of their work and effort in a standards based grading system.  

Second, how can we help students move forward from failure?

1. Help students learn from the experience.- Mistakes happen, and these can be turned into teachable moments with students. Regular feedback, follow up conversations and goal planning meetings help students to see where they are at in their learning, how far they have come and think about new directions for their learning. An informal chat or scheduled meeting can really help students bounce back from the mistakes and encourage positive relationship building between you and your students.

Regular reflection also helps students reflect on their progress. Implementing blogging or journaling into your curriculum really encourages students to think about why they are doing the things they do and gives them a personal space to celebrate success, vent frustration and move forward.

2. Tap into the positive experiences and success of others.- Showcase other students' work to help your students grow from mistakes and move towards higher levels of proficiency. Nothing motivates students like other students, so after getting some permission from students and whiting out names, highlight outstanding or level-appropriate proficient work to your students. If appropriate in your teaching level find a way to have students dialogue with one another about the Why?s and How?s of the assignment. This creates a "Students Helping Students" moment and is another good way to build community in your classroom.

There are lessons to be learned both in successes and failures. Failure is only delay along the road towards success. How do you use both of these moments to encourage growth and learning in your students?

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