This is it – the start of a brand new school year! I spent some time this summer coming up with my mantra for the new educational year: FAIL. This year I want to encourage students and teachers to FAIL. Now, before you get all worried and question whether I spent WAAAY too much time in the sun this summer, check out my definition of FAIL in the image below:
(Image found at: http://daytobeyou.com/inspire/fail-first-attempt-in-learning/)
You need first to fail in order to learn. This is true whether in terms of trying out a new teaching methodology, designing a new unit, or using new technology in the classroom. The great thing about our profession is that we get to start fresh every September – sometimes even every term or semester! We keep what has worked, and learn from what has FAILED in order to plan for an even better learning environment in our classrooms. FAILing = future success, so long as we learn from our experiences!
We expect our students to fail. We know that we are exposing them to new content and concepts, and that they might make some mistakes or experience some frustration before they come to that “a-ha” moment where the light bulb goes on and they actually “get it”. We encourage them to keep trying, because we know that with each failure they are actually learning what DOES work as well as what doesn’t, and that eventually this will help them put the puzzle pieces together in their brain in a way that makes the content make sense for them. Failure is the foundation of inquiry, of invention, of innovation, and of all meaningful, internalized learning. Failure is good!
As educators we often have such high expectations of ourselves that we won’t give ourselves permission to fail, especially in front of our students. In my role, I especially see this in terms of trying out new technology tools to help achieve learning goals in the classroom. We won’t use the SMARTboard that is hanging right on the wall in our classroom because we feel that we are not yet an “expert” at using it. We decide against doing a super-engaging video editing project with our students because we have never used YouTube Editor ourselves. We shy away from trying out Google Docs for an amazing, collaborative group project because we aren’t as comfortable with it as much as a more traditional, desktop-based word processing program. Why the double-standard, people?! If we want our students to fail in order to learn, why won’t we be kind to ourselves and expect the same in our own learning? You don’t become an “expert” or even “comfortable” with a new tool without trying – and yes, failing – at using it a few times. If you allow yourself to try and fail, especially in front of your students, you might find that you actually improve the learning situation in your classroom. It is not only beneficial to model lifelong learning to your students, but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate ways that you problem-solve and persevere when a concept or answer does not come easily on the first try. In a culture often focused on instant gratification and easy (not best) solutions, by failing in front of your students, you would actually be teaching them important virtues such as creativity, determination, flexibility, and patience. What a gift!
I hope that you FAIL this year, and that you encourage your students to do the same. I especially hope that you give yourself opportunities to FAIL with new technology and tools that will help you achieve intended learning outcomes in your classroom in new and creative ways. If you need any support with your learning, I hope that you will contact your friendly technology coordinator who will be happy to help you with suggestions of new things to try and support you as you learn, whether you feel like you’re FAILing or not! Make this a wonderful year….. try something new and FAIL!