When I asked the students what they thought about failure, the kids at Don Bosco High School, grade 5 through 8 unanimously agreed that failing is not a good thing. It disappoints their parents and caregivers, teachers are angered by their failure, friends make fun of them and hence it is “not nice to fail.”
The responses reminded me of my own childhood where I would never be okay with failing and be so worried about wanting to be the topper and the smart one. To fail was a shameful thing. The response of the children concerned me because the fear of failure can hinder one from learning new things and from growing in understanding.
My students love stories. So I decided to narrate a few stories of famous failures; like the story of Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein was called a slow learner by his teachers. He almost dropped out of school. After graduating he was struggling to find employment and his father died believing that Einstein was a failure. But the story we know today is of his success, his intelligence, and his achievements in science.
I also told them about Colonel Sanders. When he was six years old, his father passed away, leaving Sanders to cook and care for his siblings. In seventh grade, Sanders dropped out of school. At the age of 65, he was broke and penniless after retirement. And that was when he decided to sell his secret recipe for fried chicken and was rejected 1009 times, until one place accepted it and is today an international brand called KFC.
These famous people, along with many others, before they became successful, experienced failure. But their mistakes didn’t stop them from continuing their dream or staying on their path. They took the risk of failing, learnt from each experience, and persevered through it to grow more knowledgeable.
After the storytime, the students were asked to form small groups and discuss creative ways to show what they had learnt about failure. Each child was able to connect the learning to their own failures. The stories of “famous failures” inspired them to think that they can learn more from their mistakes.
As I moved from one group to the other to facilitate the discussions, I saw, Bhuvana, a eleven year old, write something on the chart that her group had created.
When we first started working with her class, Bhuvana would quietly enter the classroom and would sit in the last bench and no one would know Bhuvana existed in the class. She would never ask questions or share her opinions. She would fail in math test multiple times. But she did not lose her motivation.
Slowly things changed for Bhuvana because she persisted. She started becoming involved in the class discussions. She once stood up in class and shared her ideas for the Hidden Treasure project that her team was working on. Now, Bhuvana has grown to see her own worth, and I know this because I watched her write the words, “Failure is a good teacher, it helps us to improve in our life,” on the chart.
Bhuvana’s illustration and words were turned into a postcard to remind us that even if we fail multiple times, it’s not the end of the road if we continue learning from our mistakes. Through her words and actions, Bhuvana has taught us to always improve in our lives.
– Supraja, an HT Program Admin