Let Them Fail
This is the latest in a series of blog posts by a partnering cohort member.
By: Monica Supanik
As teachers we are often pitted against parents. When we defend our classroom practice the daily, it is easy to then criticize the parent. We’ve all seen the memes “Johnny never acts like that at home,” with an eye rolling teacher in a depiction of a parent/teacher conference. Not to mention the battle that can be brought on by homework; “it’s the teacher’s job to teacher.” and the retaliatory remark of “And it’s the parents’ job to parent but you see me doing that as well as being a counselor, nurse, pastor, mentor, coach, referee, banker, custodian, party planner, detective, comedian…” In the end, we as parents &/or teachers, are just trying to do the best by our children. Yet we all make mistakes & we certainly “helicopter” in both roles.
Look how times have changed. 31 years ago, there was a two year old child who left a party unnoticed and walked almost a mile unclothed to a neighbor’s house. Was this a headline article? Nope and look at her now, writing this blog. Granted, our outlet of news broadcasting has changed drastically but so has our ability to publicly shame & criticize. Parents & teachers alike are afraid of being a headline. That fear has forced us to keep a closer eye & scrutinize every decision of our own. We tend to correlate children’s mistake to our mistakes. Therefore, we shall not let our children make ANY mistakes.
Benefits of coding (Pena):
The effects often seen when failure is internalized as unacceptable (Landon):
We can not have our code & eat it too when we believe in the benefits of one but built a culture of the other. Kindergarteners have this uncanny ability to resist fear- just kidding. It has not been beaten into them yet. This is the likely age where students begin school, sports, & friendships. In 1st grade, students begin to see spelling tests with - 4 instead of +21. They are taught that 100% is the goal and anything else is unacceptable. We are saying, you didn’t study enough instead of your efforts were so great. Do we ever give them a chance to reflect, learn from their mistakes, & then have a chance to improve their grade?
I think back to advice from college years, you learn the most about your content in the first three years of teaching. That is probably because we stumble, trip, & even plummet face first over lessons we thought were going to be wonderful but learned were prime examples of what not to do. Our failures become the foundations of our classrooms. We become confident in fine tuned units & drive full force with the notion that “ it could not fail any worse than that one time.” After a time or two we begin to think, “what if I did this instead?!” with excitement to embellish the lesson even more. Through our failures as early educators, confidence of experience, & then curiosity of innovation, we create engaging lessons & conduct them without fear. If we, as teachers with our “old” brains, can take so much value of trial & error, think of the power this could have on the tiny sponge like brains of our youth!
Teachers teach lessons; so do failures. We can compound the impact of our classrooms if we continue to teach our lessons & then hand the reins over to our students so they may explore, wonder, try, stumble, & plummet face first into their mistakes. This should also be coupled with time for them to reflect, evaluate, & try again, just as we do each year with a new set of kids. Allowing our children to make 10 unsuccessful attempts will take some time to acclimate because it requires us to let go of control & trust that they will arrive at the appropriate answer. With each new attempt comes the development of perseverance, confidence, & 10 new ways not to complete a task. And at this age, failures are far less traumatic and detrimental than they would be in upper grades (Landon). “Parents must stop hovering. Otherwise, they rob children of the very experiences that require problem-solving and set them on the path to resilience and the confidence to take on new challenges.”(Arky)
Ways to build confidence in children (childmind):
Gonzalez, Jennifer “How and Why We Should Let Out Students Fail.” December, 12, 2015. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/gift-of-failure/
Landon, Dena “Why It’s Important to Let Your Kid Fail.” September 19, 2018. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/why-it-s-important-to-let-your-kid-fail/
Child Mind Institute “12 Tips to Raise a Confident Child” Retrieved February 23,2019 from https://childmind.org/article/12-tips-raising-confident-kids/
Pena, de la Emily “10 Benefits of Coding That Have Nothing to do with Coding” April 27, 2018 https://www.codingkids.com.au/blog/10-benefits-of-coding-that-have-nothing-to-do-with-coding/
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