From the Principal’s Desk – 08 February, 2018
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”. – Winston Churchill
For a long time many of us believed that failing at something was the end of the world. Losing a match, failing a test, not being selected to leadership, trying your hand at something new (like surfing or tennis ), to just keep getting dunked by a wave or missing the shot, are a few examples of how we experience situations of failing daily. However, the new “school of thought” is that failing at something is necessary to experience success.
After all wasn’t it;
• Thomas Edison: In his early years, teachers told Edison he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no better, as he was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Even as an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in the design that worked.
• Oprah Winfrey: Most people know Oprah as one of the most iconic faces on TV as well as one of the richest and most successful women in the world. Oprah faced a hard road to get to that position, however, enduring a rough and often abusive childhood as well as numerous career setbacks including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was “unfit for TV.”
• Vincent Van Gogh: During his lifetime, Van Gogh sold only one painting, and this was to a friend and only for a very small amount of money. While Van Gogh was never a success during his life, he plugged on with painting, sometimes starving to complete his over 800 known works. Today, they bring in hundreds of millions.
• Albert Einstein: Most of us take Einstein’s name as synonymous with genius, but he didn’t always show such promise. Einstein did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven, causing his teachers and parents to think he was mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social. Eventually, he was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. It might have taken him a bit longer, but most people would agree that he caught on pretty well in the end, winning the Nobel Prize and changing the face of modern physics.
And the list can go on of people (famous and otherwise) who have succeeded through failure.
A school environment has to be a safe place for students to fail and self-correct. We need to allow our students the opportunity to try new things (being a risk taker) and where they have failed, learn to reflect and attempt another path to success. To do this requires grit and resilience – grit to keep going when things are tough and resilience to develop the skills to cope with defeat and failure and bounce back. More and more we hear of these terms in connection with producing students fit for the 21st century.
Another key component to encouraging children to be successful is to allow them to make their own mistakes and feel the consequences of their failures – this is often the hardest thing for any parent who wishes to “protect” their child against the “mean bad world”. This is a terrible mistake and only teaches children that when things get tough, their parents will come in and sort it out for them – it totally undermines the concept and benefits of failure and hinders any child’s path to success including their ability to problem solve things for themselves. Imagine a parent going into their child’s place of employment and arguing with the boss about something their child did – that child’s employment would almost certainly be terminated. Or what about a parent that actually does the project work assigned to their child and presents the “amazing” poster/project as their child’s work – you end up robbing the child of the benefits of positive feedback for a job well done or the constructive criticism of how to make it better next time.
More now than ever our world needs people with grit and resilience. We need a future work force that can think outside the box and find new and creative ways to solve the world’s many problems – just look at what wonderful entrepreneurial things are coming out due to the drought water crisis.
Watching our children make mistakes and having to deal with some of the consequences that come their way can be a tough pill to swallow but the effects of overprotecting them and facing major consequences later in their lives can be exponentially more painful. So let’s encourage our children to try new things, to learn to bounce back, to learn to solve problems for themselves (of course it is our job to guide and counsel them) and to learn to take responsibility for their actions, their education and their choices – if we do this I have no doubt that the end result will be a future generation that will make a huge difference in our world.