Failure. It is a necessary part of life, and yet, we often don’t want to accept it as part of schooling. We want to make sure ‘No Child is left behind’ and that everyone succeeds. While this is the ultimate goal, failure is a necessary stepping stone to move students to that eventual success.
Part allowing choice for children also means sometimes allowing children to fail. For example, if a student chooses not to practice their spelling words, they may not do well on the test. When children have the opportunity to experience the negative consequences of poor choices they are often motivated to think through future decisions, especially when guided by a trusted adult. While this can be intimidating for educators, it really is the best way to help children make good choices. And while it may be a lot of work in the beginning the return on investment will be worth it.
It is true that there is no success without first failure. It is necessary for children to learn that it’s okay to fail for them to believe that it is okay to try. Creating a classroom environment that students can feel comfortable failing in naturally facilitates future responsible decision-making. If we put trust in students that we believe they can make their own choices and that we believe in their potential despite their failures they are much more likely to gain the confidence they need to succeed.
So get comfortable with failure, share your own failures with your students and applaud them for their efforts, win or lose. The outcome? More responsible, decision makers.