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Your Path Forward Should Include Failure

Originally posted at   

Guest post by Curt Rees.

It is important for school leaders to notice the shift that Collins and Halverson (2009) describe; education and learning are taking place more frequently in spheres other than behind the walls of our public schools.  Many students are moving to private schools, home school settings, online environments, and private learning centers (like Kaplan and Sylvan).  Public education can stay relevant and effective by using the power of technology to customize what students learn (through assessment and instruction), and to also increase the engagement level of learning.  Technology can also be an aid to expanding learning because it is able to overcome traditional barriers such as time and location.

More than just remaining relevant, the path forward for school leaders is to enable, encourage, and provoke the type of deep and dynamic learning in staff members that we’d like to see for students.  For too long, educators (leaders and teachers) have been cautious in how we go about the task of educating students. We carefully plod along a scripted path, making small adjustments to plans that were thought to be ideal for generations of the past.  We seem to keep trying to perfect a system that is no longer relevant, and this isn’t going to cut it anymore. I don’t think it is possible for us to tweak our way to greatness.  

As leaders, we need to work to establish an environment of experimentation for teachers and students.  We should set challenging outcome goals for ourselves and for our students, and then encourage and expect creative and innovative thinking to find solutions that will help meet those goals.  We also need to change our fear of failure, because valuable learning lessons can come from that failure.  Failure that comes from well-intended effort should be appreciated and praised.

I like Dave Guymon’s thoughts on failure. “If we never fail, it means that what we are doing has already been done or isn’t worth doing in the first place. If we never fail it is because we are comfortable where we are, not moving. If we never fail, it means that we don’t truly want to succeed. That might be fine for you if you are simply here to exist.”  

If You Can’t Fail, It Doesn’t Count by Dave Guymon

Image credit: Flicker user Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho.


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