Monday, July 14, 2014

Failure: We're Doing It Wrong

"You shall not pass!"
I was watching my daughter today in lego land. She built a tower using these really cool, large size rubber bricks. She was building a tower, trying different combinations and configurations of bricks. The interesting thing was that she was engaged in it so much that whenever something didn't work, she took it apart carefully and restarted, trying a different strategy.

I was proud to see her so intent on her task amid the chaos of children running around, and it got me thinking. Failing isn't a terminal diagnosis. Messing up, making mistakes, and learning from them is a skill in and of itself. Having the confidence, persistence and focus to continue even in the face of obstacles is something that needs to be learned (and it can be taught).

What needs to change in our schools so we can foster this type of attitude? 

How can we get kids to see the value in continuing to work at something when they haven't had any success yet? I don't think it will be easy, but I don't think it's impossible, either. We need to find ways to get kids engaged in difficult or challenging tasks that they want to do.

Get them hooked in something they like. Show them the value of persistence and hard work. We should never have to say that something isn't good enough yet, or that it needs more work before they're done. We should find ways to be standing aside and getting our kids into things that are challenging and rewarding. Sports programs. Maker clubs. Reading or writing clubs. Dance troupes. Ultimately, the medium isn't as important as the message:

You can do it. It might not be easy, and you might fail. That's okay. Don't let it stop you. If you can't do it yet, that means you need to put in a little more work. Solve some problems. Try a different strategy. Try again. Think about it. Keep at it until you get it.