In his TEDX Talk, Clint Tuttle talked about the importance of failure. As a college professor, he spoke of many students that would come to his office upset because they thought they were failing his class. When Tuttle looked at their grade, he would be surprised to see they had an A or B. To these students, a 98% didn’t mean getting 98% of the material correct—it meant getting 2% of the material wrong. This TEDX Talk resonated with me because I have the exact same perfectionist mindset when it comes to my own achievements. When success is all that is talked about, and you don’t achieve it, you feel like you are doing something wrong. Failure is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about.
The idea that failure is taboo isn’t new. However, in his talk, Tuttle pointed out something that I hadn’t thought about before. Students aren’t the only ones that fear failure. Teachers do to. With a near impossible list of standards and expectations teachers are supposed to meet, many fall into routine, by the book teaching. They are scared to innovate, because it means putting their job on the line if they fail. This reaffirmed the fears I shared in my last blog post about why the necessary innovation isn’t happening in schools.
His ultimate message is that failing is an option, and we shouldn’t be afraid of it. To the students—failure is incremental. One bad grade is not the be all end all to your future. In fact, it is those incremental failures are what lead to success. To the teachers—allow your students to fail. This does not mean to let them slack off. Just let them know that failure is unavoidable. What matters is how you react to it, and whether or not you take the time to learn from it.
As a student and a teacher, this was a great reminder for me. I have spent my entire life deathly afraid of failure. I think these types of conversations are so important to have, because no one talks about them. I want to teach my students that failure is normal. I want to teach them how to react when they fail, so that they can use that experience to learn.