Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A fall is the signal to rise!

I remember somebody telling me that 'A fall is the signal to rise'.  It has stuck with me and I am reminded of it often when life deals you something that you did not see coming!

The ability to get back up and try again is well described in Chapter 2 of the Mindset book.  Many examples are given of high profile people who are display either fixed or growth mindset characteristics.

In schools, we need to be aware of young people who see failure as a weakness, a dead end street.

The question is what conditions do we need to create for failure, defeat or loss to be seen as part and parcel of learning from our mistakes.

What are your top 3 conditions??


  1. The three conditions I would suggest in order for a child to fail yet see this as the challenge for future success are:
    1. A safe, caring, nurturing environment
    2. Positive encouragement
    3.Self belief and faith

  2. This is a question to which the answer is easy in theory and incredibly difficult in practice. Although, I attempt to foster a growth mindset in children, my own attitude towards failure is not a particularly healthy one. I find failure terrifying, mainly due to the impact it may have on other people's perceptions of me (something which matters far more than it should).

    However, I do think that, due to the way we have been educated etc, this is inevitable - I have been told my whole life about the importance of results, qualifications, getting it right, being a success. That is firmly engrained.

    It is up to us to ensure that, from the earliest years of a child's education, they are shown that failure is a way to learn. This can be done through a far more independent and investigative curriculum which is designed around exploration rather than formulas. We need to share with the children stories of famous people who have failed and picked themselves up again and we need to be working alongside the children, particularly on unfamiliar and difficult topics to show them that we fail too (programming being a perfect example). I fear that it will be very difficult for children to see failure as a vessel for self development with the current pressure on teachers and pupils for grades. The sad fact is that if their levels look bad, so do we.

    This does not give us much room for manoeuvre and means that, unfortunately, failure is not embraced in the way it should be. I definitely agree with Michele, that the environment needs to be nurturing and children need to be trained to support and help each other but it needs to be a school wide focus and it needs to happen slowly over time. The way we approach teaching and learning needs to change, less sage on the stage, more guide on the side. This will not happen overnight and I think it needs to come from the teachers. If the staff don't believe in it and, more importantly, understand it, they won't invest their time and energy in a curriculum aimed far more at the development of a growth mindset.

    I think also that, no matter how much we show children that failure is how we learn, those children who consistently achieve low levels will never quite be able to believe it when they compare themselves to their classmates as they inevitably will. I suppose the most obvious solution is such a level of challenge for all children that they all become accustomed to having to struggle, adapt and apply different strategies. If they are all in it together then it becomes the norm. This is what needs to be fostered in school but it is no mean feat; ensuring every single child is appropriately challenged at all times is very difficult to achieve. It is possible but it needs to start now and it needs to be upheld by every single member of the school community.

  3. Good question!

    I think that children wont be able to learn form failure UNLESS:

    1. They feel safe. If they fear ridicule, disapproval or anger they will NEVER risk failing.
    2. They have plenty of time. If they are feeling rushed and pressured then they won't have enough time to develop their learning.
    3. Confidence that they are capable of learning & that their teacher will help them find a successful strategy but that they must do the hard slog!

    I think "yet" is a powerful word for teachers. I can't play the piano very well - yet!

    I have recently begun to learn the piano. It has been a real slog and I am aware that I am not very good but I am willing to take risks providing the 3 conditions above are in place.

    I think my conditions are remarkably similar to Michele's!

  4. I agree with all of the above.
    Michele and Jackie place feeling safe as number 1. This is where we should always start and then build up a nurturing environment where as Anna says all are treated as individuals.
    I like the idea of 'yet'- it shouts out 'I believe I can!'- (Michele I remember the uplifting song you use!)
    Strikes me that parents are an important part of this mix - I thought this today whilst watching an Under 8's Cricket match. There was a rule that if you were out you could stay in bat until the end of the 4 overs (4 x 6 bowls). Some of the children were out 1st or 2nd ball but they had time to adjust and were coached in how to play the correct shot during their time on the field - great!


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