The New York Times Learning Network blog has an interesting lesson on the topic of failure, with some good examples from sports, business, the arts and other fields.
It also asks students to consider some interesting questions about failure in their own lives and those of people they know.
Can failure be useful? Can you think of examples, from your own life or someone elseâ€™s, when it has led to something positive?
How is failure defined and dealt with in your family, your school, the activities you do outside of school, among your friends and in your community? Which of those definitions and responses to failure seem fairest or best to you? Why?
What can be done to avoid failure? Should people try to avoid it?
What is “failure” and what is “success”? Who decides?
Missing, however, is any real consideration of failure as it applies to school. What happens if you fail the midterm in English 7? What recovery options do you have for getting a bad score on the SOLs?* Suppose you get a 1 on an AP test?
We really don’t deal well with the concept of failure in school, especially in helping students learn from it and discovering options for recovery. Maybe in sports, possibly the arts or other “non-academic” contests. But for most kids, failing a class or a grade means they will repeat it.
But the most likely scenario is that they get to cover the same content, often using the same materials and teaching techniques, often in the compressed time frame of summer school. And usually with only slightly better results, not anything we might call “success”.
Doing the same thing in the same way hoping for different results.
Is that how people recover from failure in real life?
*For those outside of Virginia, that’s the acronym for our spring standardized tests.