Dr. Thomas Wayne looked down at his son, Bruce who had fallen into a cavern and asked, "Why do we fall?" His son did not reply. "So we can learn to pick ourselves up again." Dr. Wayne said. I believe that failure should be an option for all students. I don't mean not passing or learning during their coursework, but students should learn how to fail, and then pick themselves back up again. I have not been successful at everything I've attempted. When failure occurs I take a step back, reassess the situation, and then try again. I learned how to fail from Mr. DeMuth, my high school Biology teacher. His tests were really difficult, and I didn't pass the first few. After each failure he would talk to us about how to look at our mistakes, find the problem, and correct them. If I hadn't had that experience I don't know how I would have coped with the occasional stumbling points life has thrown at me.
My school doesn't have a system to fail. In fact, I had a meeting with a parent this week who was worried about his child's grades. His child's lowest grade is in my class, it is a B. I can't imagine the meetings and emails I would get if we in fact allowed our students to truly fail, at even one assignment.
In EDL 630 we are currently evaluating SBAC data from our schools. While going through my numbers I thought of last weeks habits blog post, think win-win, about competition. These assignments, and the thought processes I experienced, coincide with the idea that it is never too late to learn, for any student. We can't have the focus on competing for grades if we have to sacrifice authentic life skill learning to accomplish the grades.
My friend, Bill Ferriter (co-author of the graphic above), is a writer about education. He has published a few books, and he does a lot of speaking at conferences. What he does most and best is he runs a blog about education, The Tempered Radical. A lot of it is reflection on his day to day experiences in the classroom, he teaches 6th grade science in North Carolina. As I was reading the chapter in Fisher, Frey, and Pumpian, I saw the connection between the section on competencies and a blog post Bill did a few years ago. He asked us, What if our schools created a culture of "DO" instead of "Know?" He then explains further, that the shift wouldn't happen overnight, it would be a process of re-training every stakeholder at the school from the principal who controlled the purchasing and set the culture, to the classroom teachrs to design lessons that, "allow our kids to work independently, and interdependently on meaningful tasks without much trouble." (Ferriter 2012)
I think that by creating authentic lessons in your class, and focusing on mastery based learning you can avoid students falling into a situation where they are so far behind that they can't possibly "catch up" and pass the course. If we truly work to switch our schools to places where we work towards students "doing" instead of worrying about what students "know," we have to change our ideas about grading. We need to create learning opportunities that better reflect real life, complete with failures and setbacks, then our students will be prepared for all the life has to offer.
5 Things to Commit to:
1. I will share my philosophy about a culture of Do v. a culture of Know.
2. I will continue to have the opportunity for students to correct mistakes on assignments.
3. I will focus more on the learning opportunity, than what the student did wrong.
4. I will bring in more collaborative and "creating" assignments.
5. I will continue to push my students to excel and never accept anything but their best effort.
Ferriter, B. (2012, January 29). What If Schools Created a Culture of “Do” INSTEAD of a Culture of “Know?”. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Pumpian, I. (2012). How to create a culture of achievement in your school and classroom. Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.