I only know this now, because I have failed at many things in life. So far.
I failed my driving test the first time.
I failed my AS Levels the first time, and in some subjects the second time too.
I failed my final placement during teacher training. Shocker!
But when I look back on those failures now, I can say, with experience, that those failures were important parts of my becoming a strong person. I have such immense resilience that not even his lordship could break me. Not completely anyway. Sure, I would drive to school in the mornings, exhausted and unsure as to whether I would survive the day, cry silently at lunch and playtimes whilst trying to recover a brave face. However, I stubbornly made it through the day and pep talked myself into getting up each morning.
I am, to my own detriment, somebody who keeps trying again and again until I, eventually, get it right. I’m a perfectionist but in the end I can see the progress and tell myself when something will do. I know that when I fail the first time around, it isn’t a permanent issue to dwell on. I can pick myself up and dust off the feelings of doubt. I can tell myself to just try again.
Some children in my class, struggle with failure. To them, failure is the end of the world as they know it. If they don’t get full marks on their spelling test, they bawl their eyes out and sob uncontrollably like the end of the world is nigh. If they offer an answer in class and it isn’t quite right, even with my best efforts to commend their brave attempt to try and find the right answer, they knock themselves down and give in.
Last year, during a year 2 SATs test, a child in my class who was more than capable of answering the questions, started having a panic attack because he couldn’t find the answer in the text, yet. Try as I might, he couldn’t calm down, not in the atmosphere and pressure of test conditions. My TA took him out of the room and walked him outside to get some fresh air. She carried on the pep talk and he eventually managed to come back into the room and finish his test. He even found the answer to the question after moving onto others and going back to it in the end. He is one of many children in my class who doesn’t handle failure gracefully. Most of them are able and a few are even gifted in some subjects. So why is failure so hard for them?
I’m confident in my assumption that they are probably too young to understand why failure is so hard. And until I invent a machine that can read a child’s mind or work on my degree in child psychology…I guess I’ll never know.
One thing I do know is that as well as being their teacher it’s also my job to be their encourager and remind them that it is ok to fail. I always “model” making my own mistakes in the classroom to show that I too, am human. I make mistakes. I fail. Just like them.
I do have to keep reminding them of what fail actually means…first attempt in learning.
My class quite like this quote, because it simplifies the concept that fail is just a word. It’s just a temporary happening or feeling. It doesn’t last forever and isn’t the end of the world. Failure only lasts as long as you dwell on it. It’s why I tend to ignore the tantrums over failure in the classroom. The more attention the child gets from sulking over a low score on their times table test, the longer they dwell on it and the longer the feeling of failure lasts.
Obviously the parents can play a big part in a child’s feeling of being a failure. Not necessarily because they make their child feel like a failure but because they want them to do so well, so desperately, that they forget to give them some credit for their efforts. Sometimes the tears aren’t over the fact that they got a low score on their test, sometimes it’s because of the fact that Mum or Dad, or Mum and Dad, will be disappointed with them, and the low score they achieved. What do I do then? I try to remind the parents that their child is only 7 or 8 years old. They won’t get everything right the first time round. Sometimes it will take some practise to get it right. Like with reading comprehensions…do not get me started on answering reading comprehensions! That’s my next challenge to issue as extra “fun” homework! Yay!