Failure as Learning: It’s a Necessary Process!

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” – Ken Robinson

The art of failure and learning from mistakes is one of my favorite concepts to teach to high school students. In today’s classroom, I see more and more students giving up after making a mistake, or choosing an “incorrect” answer. Instead of working the problem or issue out to find a proper or potential solution, students will put their head down and give in to the idea of failure.

What has this taught them? That it’s okay to give up and quit when something gets to be too difficult. That particular mindset is nowhere for anyone to rest in. I could go on forever about this topic, but I’ll keep it brief and meaningful instead.

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford

All of the greatest minds have failed numerous times in something or another before they were finally considered successful. Who do we know who is perfect? Not a soul that I am aware of. And to be honest, if perfection is where any one person thinks they are, they haven’t set the bar high enough for themselves.

High expectations are required to motivate and challenge students to grow. We cannot be complacent in anything. Our minds are like muscles; we must constantly push and challenge our brains to stretch around a concept before we can build upon that concept. We need problem-solvers. We need individuals who are willing to dare to tackle society’s most sweat-inducing questions with innovative and resourceful intellect.

It’s important for us to ensure that students understand “failing” is okay. It’s part of the growing and learning process. Failure can be very productive as long as we learn from what we missed. The actions of being wrong, taking responsibility for the mistake, and figuring out HOW we were wide of the mark is what learning truly is. That’s also when we learn the most.

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.” – Eloise Ristad

I firmly believe that the mindset in schools has always been to reject failure. Students are trained to believe that if they get anything wrong in any area, they are going to receive a poor grade, or fail a course or exam. Parents and teachers need to get out of the habit of pushing for perceived perfection. It’s really effort, perseverance, and hard work that should get the grades and rewards, in my opinion. Ensuring students know how to overcome obstacles and learn from mistakes is what should be most significant to any of us.

Accepting failure as a friend isn’t only for comfort in the classroom. Life would be extraordinarily boring if everything just came to us, or if life was a straight line from point A to point B. Every single day we are alive represents a jagged, spiraling line on the path to understanding, truth, and accomplishment. Learning IS truly living.

 “It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” – Zig Ziglar

How can you integrate the concept of “learning by failure” into your classroom? Please share your ideas and opinions!