It’s Okay to Fail

One terrified comment I hear the most from teachers as I talk to them about new (or not so new) technology they can integrate into their classrooms is, “What if I mess up?”  And it struck me that for most of us, failure is something we fear.  No one likes to have everyone see that he is less than perfect.  For teachers especially, the thought of students seeing them fail when they are supposed to be the harbingers of knowledge is terrifying.  “What will students think?”  “What if they will no longer listen to me once they realize I’m human?”

Those questions always remind me of an Education professor I had during my undergraduate years who talked about his favorite History professor.  He said that his professor came in the first day, pointed to the whiteboard running the length of the classroom, and stated, “THAT board represents ALL of History.”  Then the professor calmly walked over to the board, marker in hand, and drew a quarter-sized circle.  Stepping back, he said, “And THAT is how much I know of History.”  My Education professor went on to say that the biggest gift we can give our students is being willing to utter the words “I don’t know” in a classroom setting.  Admitting to being less than perfect removes some of the fear of failure from our students.

This concept also applies to using new technology in the classroom.  No one understands something new immediately… at least no one I have ever known!  At times, in our classrooms, the WiFi will go out, or you will mix up the cords when you connect the new equipment or the firewall that wasn’t blocking the new and amazing app fifteen minutes ago will come down and block your exciting lesson.  Sometimes technology fails.  When this happens – and it will – the biggest gift we can give our students is to laugh and say, “It’s okay to fail.  Anyone have any ideas?”  Let’s foster a sense of community in our classrooms where everyone is entitled to fail as long as we are willing to get back up and try again.


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