I have been seeing this trend lately that seems to tell our students that failure seems to be kind of ok.
You probably have seen it too.
There are memes out there on the web that say things like this:
FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.
There is a lot of this going around. FAIL.
If you watch this Keynote speaker, you can even hear him speak about it right around the 32 minute mark.
This is usually followed by the some quote by someone famous that said that they had to fail to succeed, like Edison said he didn’t have 10,000 lightbulb failures, he had 10,000 examples of how not to do it the next time.(if at first you don’t succeed, try try again and all that…)
And while I get the gist of the idea, that out our students need to be secure with the idea that they do not have to be 100% correct all of the time, and that they have to be able to be in an environment where it is okay to fail, I wonder if we are actually sending a wrong message to them? What are we telling them after they fail?
Is the second attempt in learning SAIL? The third is TAIL? Then the fourth and fifth are back to FAIL again?
I wonder if some kids will misinterpret the “It is okay to fail as long as you learn something valuable” message with “It is okay to fail.”
There is a difference. And I also think we need to make sure that if we say that, we mean it.
For instance, would we say that FAIL: First Attempt in Learning applies to high stakes testing?
It is okay to fail your state’s mandated test kid, as long as you learned something along the way.
Of course not.
So there seems to be boundaries where FAIL is acceptable and FAIL is not acceptable.
Are our students understanding that difference? How are we explaining that to them?
If kids see the message do they interpret it as “It is okay to fail?”
With Edison, as with all of the others that talk about having to fail first then succeed, there seems to be the idea that while they did indeed fail, there was failure with a purpose.
Edison failed 10,000 times, but he did it with the end in mind: he was making an electrical lightbulb. The goal was established already.
Do our students understand what the GOAL is from the outset? If not, the failures become meaningless.
That meme needs to have a follow up. It needs to be made clear to students that while some level of exploring while you learn is acceptable, at some point they must master the learning.
Failing with a purpose is different than just failing.