Every year I begin the school year by asking my students what they think and feel about the word fail, and every year my heart sinks at their responses. This year I asked my students this question and the responses I received included: anxious, scared, sad, devestatating, fear, hurt, worry, etc. These answers break my heart. Students see failure and fear it. We need to change the mentality of our students to see failure as the process of learning and is nothing to fear.
When I discussed the idea of failure with my students, I used the example of playing video games. The majority, if not all, of my students play video games. I ask them if they have ever played a game where they struggled beating a certain level. Everyone’s hands shot up. I ask them if they quit, get sad, feel anxious, or fear their failure of not passing the level. Some snickered, but everyone said, “No!” I ask them how they feel when they don’t pass the level. The responses are drastically different from the first time. Students’ responses include: angry, frustrated, determined, etc.
So what ‘s the difference between failing in school and failing at a video game? Students have been conditioned that failing at school means they don’t know something. They are lacking in knowledge. They aren’t good at something. And at times, they feel stupid. When students fail at a video game, they know they can start over, try again, try different strategies, and play it as many times as it takes to pass the level. We need to make our students learning environment like video games. When you don’t pass a test, an assignment, a project, or whatever it might be, students need to know that they can try again, they can use different strategies, they can try as many times as it takes to pass that learning level.
I have a motto in my classroom: “Failure = Challenge Accepted”. When my students fail a test, assignment, project, etc., they have the opportunity to try again. They can do something different, they can redo what they did, and they can redo something as many times as they need to succeed. Learning starts with failure, but if we don’t provide that learning opportunity for our students, then they will never learn from their mistakes. My goal for my students is for them to see failure as a challenge that must be overcome. Just like a difficult level on a video game, I want them to see their learning as something they can win.
It is time we change the mindset of our students about failure. We need to provide them opportunities to try as many times as it takes to win. We need them to see failure as a learning opportunity and something that is not final. Finally, we need our students to see failure and say, “Challenge accepted!”