Failure as Growth: Memoirs From a No Child Left Behind Survivor


Failing. I think everyone’s at least a little afraid of it; I know I am, anyway. You’re looking at a NCLB survivor — failure isn’t an option for us. Testing — and passing tests — is all we know about succeeding. In a NCLB school, failure isn’t an opportunity to grow, it is a death sentence written neatly on your report card.

So how do I get out of that mindset? I obviously don’t want my students thinking this way, that failure is the end instead of the beginning of a process.

I think the answer to all of this comes down to vulnerability. Teachers must be vulnerable if they want any chance of inspiring or connecting with their students.

What does teacher vulnerability look like in the classroom? Being honest about your mistakes; tell students when something has gone wrong, or change your lesson halfway through because if you’re honest with yourself (and your students) it’s just not working. Let your students know that failure — taking a risk and having it not work out — is a part of the learning process. If you never fail big you’re not taking enough risks. Pushing ourselves, being honest with ourselves, challenging ourselves, and learning more — all of these things require unbelievable strength and vulnerability, and failure. You’re going to make mistakes and fail.

Be honest with your students. Let them know that all of this is okay. Let them know there is strength in failure, and it makes your successes so much sweeter.

This is also much easier said than done. Failing is hard, and I can’t even imagine failing in front of my students; it sounds terrifying. My hope is that I hold on to this optimism I feel now, and push myself to try, everyday


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