By LeAnn Simmerman, Teacher of the Gifted, Maury County Public Schools, TN
Failure can be a painful experience for anyone, but is especially tough for teens who are still forming a sense of self. When people experience failure, they often report feelings of embarrassment, shame and depression. Teens can perceive failure as a judgment – final, condemning and irreversible.
But, as many educators know, failure is an essential part of the learning process. A 2016 study from Columbia University found that high-school students’ science grades improved after they learned about the personal and intellectual struggles of scientists, while students who only learned about the scientists’ achievements saw their grades decline.
So, yes, failure is important, but how do we teach it? In an aim to reach students at a critical age – high school TGR EDU: Explore provides one strategy in its Rethinking Failure digital lesson bundle. Built out over three class sessions, Rethinking Failure helps students define failure, analyze its role in successful ventures and learn to apply a growth mindset approach to reframe their own experiences with failure. Edutopia is another resource for actionable strategies.
In an article about failure’s role in long-term success, educator Monica Fuglei shares her reasoning behind hosting an ‘I hope you fail’ lecture each semester.
“After years of teachers asking for the right answers [my students] aren’t accustomed to someone highlighting or requesting the wrong ones. Students’ failures tend to linger, creating mental baggage that interferes with learning. Lifting the burden requires us to address failure head-on and encourage students to accept it as a natural part of getting educated.”
When students feel comfortable making mistakes, the nervous feeling of being ‘wrong’ goes away, and is replaced by an opportunity to learn and grow. I urge every teacher and parent to help their students become comfortable with failure, and to make the invaluable connection between failure and future success.
TGR EDU: Explore is a program created in partnership by TGR Foundation and Discovery Education that aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in college, career and beyond via no-cost educational resources.