Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, September 30, 2013

Letting Students Fail

In 1964  John Holt wrote a book entitled "How Children Fail." About five years later, Dr. William Glasser wrote "Schools Without Failure." These books promoted the idea that students should be given the opportunity to succeed, that grades often got in the way of that success, and that some students got so used to failure they would simply give up rather than work hard to get a passing grade.

To get those children back on the path to success, we were encouraged to eliminate grades and emphasize that all students could be successful in school. These are all very well written books and have some excellent suggestions for improving school environments for children.

Unfortunately, some people took that idea to the extreme. Sports banquets no longer recognized the best and brightest athletes. Rather, all teammates received an award. Games were no longer about winning and losing but working as a team. Our competitive spirit was suppressed to the point of eliminating any winners or losers.

Here's an interesting article about the benefits of failure in the business world: Why We Should All Embrace the F-Word (Failure)

All too often, the word “failure” carries with it the threat of a career-ending catastrophe, so much so that uplifting euphemisms such as “opportunity” are thrown about in its wake. And in the classroom the word "failure" becomes taboo.

We want our students to have lots of opportunities to be successful. But we also want them to learn to pick themselves up and keep going when they fail. Perseverance and resilience are character traits we would like to instill in each student who enters our classroom. Many of the inventions we have today were the result of initial failures. The Post-It Note is a perfect example (so are potato chips and corn flakes—read more from MIT). When students are able to keep going after a setback or failure, they learn life lessons that prepare them for the future while helping them mature today.

This story from the Wall Street Journal explains first-hand how a tough music teacher who allowed his students to fail earned the respect of those students, many of whom went on to become successful in music as well as in many unrelated fields: Why Tough Teachers Get Results.

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Do you consider yourself to be a tough teacher? Leave a comment by clicking on the word "comments" below.

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