Monday, December 16, 2013

Smiling As My Students Fail #edchat

I love the smell of failure in the morning. I think that is how the line goes from that famous movie.

To the untrained eye, I might seem like a terrible teacher, but I argue that teachers that do not let their students fail from time to time are doing them a major disservice. 

One of the things I have learned as I have gained more experience in the classroom that it is more than just ok to let students struggle, it is often a good thing. Our students learn more when they have to strive to accomplish something instead of having it spoon fed to them or when they have the teacher hold their hand during the entire process. 

Some of my fondest memories of school were those times I triumphed over adversity. Studying for the math test and earning that C was a huge accomplishment. I earned that grade and felt good about it because it was not easy. I struggled, I stressed and I overcame. That is how I learned and I want my students to have the same experiences in class. 

What I am not saying is that teachers should leave students on their own to figure everything out and sit back and watch them fail on exams or essays. Teachers still need to guide their students and let them explore learning, but you have to let them try new things and learn through trial and error. The error part is the thing people are starting to forget. In the rush to get through content, it's easier to give students the answers instead of letting them discover them on their own through hard work. 

As you work in your class this year, try to take a step back when a student fails the first time. Assure them they can come up with the right answer on their own if they try a couple of times. Offer them strategies on how to approach problems in different ways to get new outcomes. Fight the urge to solve the problem for them. Finally, sit back and watch them accomplish the task on their own and see the biggest smile of the day come across their face as they realize that they finally did it. Then, you can smile at their failure knowing it has given the students much more than just the right answer. 


  1. I really enjoyed this! I wrote a very similar post in October...

  2. How will you know the light has come on unless you stumble in the dark.

  3. We just wrapped up a unit on integer operations with my 5th graders. I told them before we started that their whole world would be turned upside down when we added a little negative sign in front of numbers. And sure enough, they were utterly confused, even frustrated at times. But I let them struggle on their own and in small groups, while providing just enough guidance for them to work through their confusion. Failures lead to successes. However, we need to help students work through misconceptions since they won't necessarily see their own way out.


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