This is what I posed to my sixth grade students today as part of their Wednesday morning writing.

I’m part of an Iowa Voxer group, and first, good grief, what a talented, passionate, intense group of educators.  I wrote a while ago about being “just a teacher” and listening to these educators talk, I guess I know why I’m just that. 🙂 The conversations are quite rich and while I’m not in agreement with some of what is said, it’s a powerful learning tool for me.

Anyway, one conversation that was had here was about failure and how we need to allow students to fail more often.  Failure is not always what a student wants, but many times is exactly what they need.  As we move away from grades towards a more standards based approach, that idea of failure is going to happen more.  Students aren’t going to get something and will need to be prepared to work until they get it.  In parts of our current grading system, students shrug off the bad grade and move forward.  Being allowed to fail with no accountability isn’t any better than not being allowed to fail.

So today, our prompt asked just that.  A few replies:

If you fail you can see what you did wrong and do it again. If you fail you can understand what you did wrong and you can fix it. This true because I have failed and I tried again and I did it right.

Not everyone is good at everything there first attempted. I usually get good at stuff when I practice. Most people I know aren’t good when they first attempted something.

most times your going to have to try try again.

It is not true because fail means to not go forward. It also means that you FAILED in the test. Another means that you did not win the big game.

Based on that last comment, we still have some work to help students understand that failure is not always a bad thing, that failure can be put to good use, and that sometimes, we need to *gasp* practice things in order to get ourselves to a point where we won’t fail.  Both of my daughters don’t take failure well at all.  They are very intelligent children, but when failure happens, they don’t respond well.  My oldest is considering a career in engineering as was told by another college student: “You will fail a college class. Get your brain wrapped around that idea because it will happen.”  Whoa! Talk about a total change in what reality is right now.

I’ve not gotten all responses back from my students, but we will spend a little bit more time talking about this.  Most don’t see how failure is a good thing and laugh when we talk about the “great error” someone makes in class. They don’t see always see the value that sharing their thinking, right or wrong has value, not because of the answer, but because of the discussions that come from it.

We’ll get there, and yes, we’ll fail along the way.  But yet, it will make us all stronger people in the end, because we all know, I’ve failed (and learned) A LOT this year! 🙂

I’ll leave you with this latest submission:

The First Attempt part I think that no one fails only once you fail many times in life.