We need to talk about failure.
Specifically, what seems to have become some kind of endemic-fear-of-failing.
Ok. First off, what is so wrong with getting things wrong?
What is it about making a mistake – or just not getting it right yet – that seems to send us into paroxysms of frenetic confusion?
What is so wrong with failure?
Making mistakes is how we learn.
It is such an intrinsic a part of learning that I believe classrooms should be spaces for failure. Instead they’re spaces where educators are forced to teach to the exam, and to showcase the fact that they are teaching so clearly, even an ofsted inspector can’t fail to notice.
Because these are the things by which teachers and, by extension, schools are judged.
It needs to stop.
It really needs to stop.
This system is producing generations of young people that have no idea how to fail well. They don’t understand that you have to throw a hundred ideas at the wall before you get one that just might stick.
The moment their first idea doesn’t quite work, they are broken.
I’ve heard the word ‘resilience’* bandied about a lot in the last few years. Resilience, it seems, is very important. We all need to be more resilient.
I believe that in order to be resilient we need to be able to fail. I was having this conversation with a friend and he said ‘fail faster!’ He’s a games designer, and he went on to tell me that his team gets together every month to come up with a hundred game ideas as quickly as possible. About 90 of these will be rubbish. 8 will be sort of ok. 2 might be games.
Imagine that. Scheduled space to get it wrong until you get it right.
And he is right. We don’t just need the space to fail, we need active encouragement to fail faster. We need to be so used to throwing ideas around, that we get good at recognising the gems.
Classrooms are, too often, spaces that try to prevent students from getting it wrong. If we’re getting in the way of failure all the time, how are students meant to cope with the only educational experiences of failure left? Exams. We shield them and shield them… and then we wonder why, when finally faced with a space in which they might be able to get it wrong, they faint.
If we want students to succeed they have to be allowed to get it wrong. They have to be allowed to fail. We all have to fail faster.
* resilience is an interesting topic, and one shortly to have its very own blog. Lucky you!
Featured image courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrish_99/8526019374