Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Freedom to Fail

A few weekends ago I got back to my car after a trip and found it dead. After jumping all the hurdles that this caused including buying jumper cables, figuring out how to use them, dealing with being in a dark parking garage, getting the car alarm to shut off, I finally got the car in working order again. As I drove, I realized that I had left a light on inside the car. My mistake was the cause of all that hassle! And I felt horrible about it.

This got me thinking about failure. I don't deal with it well. I'm a bit of a perfectionist which may be my nature, but this tendency was probably exacerbated by my experiences in school. The emphasis, at least in my experience, was always to cram things in my brain or create fantastic projects with the aim of earning an A. Watching students where I teach now, for the lion's share of them, that seems to be their M.O. as well.

However, when I think about how I learn most meaningfully and how I learn for my own personal growth, usually it is trial and error. When I'm interested in something I like to play with it to figure out what works and what doesn't. When I get stuck I seek out expertise, whether it is takes the form of another person or information in one of its many forms that will help me.

How do we shift what we do in schools to move from the culture of perfect to a culture of experimentation when we learn it's ok to fail on the way to breakthroughs? How can I transform my thinking to reflect this in my teaching? How can I help design experiences to make this happen for the students and staff with whom I work?