I know we previously said there is no such thing as failure, but for some of us, that may feel like a bit of a stretch. Sure, we can call it feedback instead, but it still feels the same. And many of us, on some level, feel like failures or at least believe we failed at something at some time in our lives.
Those red-etched F’s can be less-than-easy to erase from one’s mind and have the power to stain many memories or colour the entire schooling experience. Sometimes red ink leaks and bleeds into other areas of our lives.
Some teachers think they are pretty clever by changing to blue, purple or green pens without questioning the grading system but it is only a matter of time before students make the association; children are quick (and intuitive) learners.
Even if failing or threatening to fail students (which, yes I have done both plenty of times) motivates some to “try harder,” it is motivating them to work away from what they don’t want rather than working toward what they do want, which makes all the difference in the course of life.
Anyway, I don’t have a solution for those teachers who feel conflicted about failing students and I know that giving everyone purple A’s or happy-faced stickers isn’t how self-esteem develops… (Besides, a record of straight A’s can lead to an even greater sense of failure down the road.) Disassembling the success-failure duality and redefining what it means “to fail” or “to succeed” may take some time.
In the meantime, learning from failure (not learning that we are failures) could be worthwhile practice to adopt and share with other learners. Better yet, Adam Kreek doesn’t only embrace failure – he seeks it. Learn how to fail (and be happy doing it):
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