Failure

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Failure and whether or not it can be helpful/useful.  I feel like we are all wearing “kids gloves” when we interact with our students because everything about the school culture is to prevent failure.  I feel like there will be a big shock when they go to college and lose the safety net that they currently have.  In some cases, especially with the 9th graders, I feel like they have never seen any lasting consequences because they are always saved.  I wonder if this really is helpful or if they would benefit from failing and redoing their entire grade.

I know some people who did not do well in high school and then continued to not do well in college.  They failed classes at community colleges and have taken much longer to get through the college system than is expected.  During this time they have seen other people who used their time more wisely succeed and get jobs and become independent.  Now, they have the desire to do well, have learned more about what they want to do, and are successful in their classes. 

I’ve been wondering lately if this may be a better route for some.  Some students don’t care about school and don’t want to put in work.  I wonder if forcing them to work is really the best route, or if it would be better to let them fail, let them see how life is harder and less enjoyable so that they then come back and put in the work to do better.  I know that part of the teacher’s job is to work to foster their internal motivation, but I think it needs to be matched in some way by the student.  If it is not, maybe the student isn’t ready for school at that level yet.

Overall, I feel like we can’t be standards driven and have a culture of high standards if we also have a culture of zero failure.  The two just don’t work together unless the students are motivated on their own.  When the students don’t meet a standard they either fail or we lower the standard.  We can put as much support in place as we can, but if we force the student and carry them the whole time, they aren’t really meeting our standards.  I worry that lowering standards is worse than allowing failure and may do more harm in the long run.  I think this is a big reason why the students are so far below grade level when we get them and we aren’t fixing anything.

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