Failure Is Not The Opposite of Success

An exasperated mother once entered my Principal’s Office unannounced and asked for some time to discuss concerns about her daughter. After listening to a barrage of incidents about battles to get to the morning bus, hurled insults at the dinner table, and intense homework rebellion, I asked a question I love to ask every parent: “What are your hopes and dreams for your child?”.

Her answer stuck with me. Without hesitating, the parent shared, “I never want my daughter to experience failure.” No wonder she was exasperated. She might as well hope her daughter never experiences gravity.

Failure is a universal human experience. Failure helps us understand where our boundaries and limits are and defines a path for expanding them. Failure reminds us of our imperfections and inspires us to find colleagues with complementary skills and talents to our own. Failure helps us savor success without slipping into arrogance.

While an important experience, failure should not be defined as an antonym of success. A recent article in The Hechinger Report discusses how important it is that we embrace failure as an invaluable teaching opportunity. The authors share that developing deeper learning competencies requires serious, guided reflection by students about why they failed. Students can then develop a growth mindset that sees failure as opportunities to shine a light on personal development and, over time, celebrate growth. Failure, therefore, can be seen as the dawn of success, not the absence of it.

As a community that cherishes how deeper learning addresses students’ holistic needs, let us encourage our schools to develop safe opportunities for students to learn from their failures and, as a result, accelerate their personal development.

Take care,

Royce Conner, Executive Director

Contact Us