Learning Compost

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Here’s a goal for educators in 2019: Change the way you think about failure.

Instead of something to shy away from, make it something to be embraced. To cite an interesting metaphor I heard yesterday, treat failure like compost.

It’s not like we never talk about this. It’s not like labeling an effort (or a student, for that matter) a “failure” is something any of us feel good about doing. We know the damage that word can cause.

And we talk a good game in terms of “learning from failure,” but I wonder the extent to which our students really believe that. And I wonder what they actually learn. To study harder? To put more effort in? To avoid it at all costs?

Do we really show them how to reflect on failure, to get meta on it and see it as an opportunity to go even more deeply into the work? (This assumes, of course, that students wanted to do the work in the first place.)

So here’s my bigger challenge to educators: How will you model failure to your students? How will you show them the opportunity that failure presents in your own lives? What compost will you create?

If we really believe that failure is not something to avoid but something to build on, we need our students to see that we believe that in our own work as well.

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