Being Prepared to Fail

Yes, I know, I said that we shouldn’t stigmatize mistakes and that we should label mistakes as “attempts” instead, so that we can learn to move beyond the mistakes and learn from them. But the truth of the matter is, the word “fail” is in our vocabulary. People use it all of the time to describe what is going on in the world around them. Take a look at the popular “FAIL Blog” to see what I am talking about. (Although, as I got mesmerized by the entries when I went to copy and paste the link, I realized how many of the entries show the creative nature of the human race – and their willingness to put themselves out there.)

This morning I have been browsing the website of Edutopia, or the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Yes, you read that right: the film guru George Lucas is now involved in educational innovation. When I found this out this morning, I felt like I had been living under a rock because I have been following Edutopia on Twitter for a couple of months now without knowing what it actually was. But I was browsing the website this morning and I came across a blog post that sounded interesting: What You Need to Be an Innovative Educator by Terry Heick. The suggestions and advice seem sound to me, but when I got to number five, “Willingness to Take Risks”, I had to smile:

But a real willingness to take risks means being prepared for failure. And failure might come in the form of lost funding, an article written about you in the local newspaper mentioning a “project gone bad,” unflattering data, and a million other possible outcomes.

Being willing to take a risk shouldn’t empower you to implement wrong-headed, half-baked ideas under the guise of an “innovative spirit,” but you should be prepared to fail. Which is fine, because education has been failing long before you got here.

Yes, I had to smile at that, because I have found that the further into this project that I get, the more I seem to take myself entirely too seriously. And worry about failure. “What if the ideas that I am putting forth in this workshop/lesson plan aren’t understood?” or “What if I can’t get my point across?” Some of the ideas that I am presenting are radical by the standards of traditional education, but have been talked about in the realm of progressive education for a long time. A lot of the progressive ideas have been misconstrued and misrepresented by traditionalists for years – one of the hardest parts of my early research was educating myself beyond the myths that have been laid out there. And if that was one of the hardest things for me to do – change my mindset – how difficult is it going to be for me to change the mindset of others? The key for me was being able to take the ideas that I encountered directly into the classroom and try them out for myself, thereby seeing the change and results for myself. I have tried to include this feature in my workshop so that educators can take the ideas that I present directly into the classroom and use them for themselves. Of course, it won’t be easy at first – change never is easy – but with support it can work.

Of course, I need to mentally prepare myself for failure because it could happen. But this quote reminded me to stop taking myself and failure quite so seriously, because education has been failing long before I got here!

prepared to fail