A lot of articles, seminars, and classes are devoted to teaching others how to succeed, but too few are written about how to fail. Ironically, failure is critical to success, and this is a truth that should be taught more often in school settings. It is impossible to live a life without failure, but, in spite of this, very few students are taught to not only accept failure but to embrace it.
Failure Builds Resilience
When students fail, the reactions from parents, teachers, and even other students are, by and large, negative. As a result, many students respond to failure with reduced confidence and a lack of motivation to continue. When failure is presented to students as a natural step in the learning process, students recognize a chance to learn more about the skill, process, or topic they are studying. When students, from pre-k years through doctoral programs, approach failure with a positive mindset, they are more likely to develop resilience. This crucial skill is a quality that helps people respond with strength and well-being when bad things happen. Teachers who present failure positively assure their students that if they haven’t failed, then they probably haven’t been trying hard enough; failure is a natural result of approaching new challenges.
Failure Teaches Compassion, Empathy, and Kindness
In many ways, failure is a better teacher than success. Compassion often comes when people have shared suffering. Out of mistakes and disappointment, students may learn empathy. This happens as students recognize when others make mistakes the students have made before. These soft skills, compassion, empathy, and kindness, can be developed, nurtured and strengthened. Failing with a positive mindset allows and encourages this development. Compassion motivates individuals to empathize with and help others.
Failure Leads to Perfection
When students have the courage to fail, they recognize valuable learning opportunities. They learn to take risks, come up with original ideas, problem-solve, and innovate. These skills are highly sought after by many employers. More important than career opportunities, however, is the recognition of errors and the chance to make adjustments and finely tune skills, talents, and abilities. Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison described the invention of the light bulb as a process with 1000 steps as opposed to 1000 failures.
Students Must Be Taught To Fail Without Quitting
When students are taught that failure is natural and positive, they must also learn to move past failure. They must be encouraged to ignore the judgment, criticism, and sympathy from the people around them. Students must also learn that it is necessary to start again and again many times. Teachers must help learners recognize where the failure happened and why. What could have been done differently? What is a better approach to the problem based on what was learned through failure?
John Dewey, an education intellectual, said, “Failure is instructive.” Today, some educational institutions recognize the value of failure, but too many simply use failure as a threat to get students to fall in line. A better approach for rich learning and student engagement is to present failure as a necessary step in achieving success.