Digital Story Critique: The Gift of Failure
I heard CEO of a company say once “Fail fast and fail often.” I remember cringing when I heard it. We don’t like to fail. Americans feel uncomfortable with failure. But is it healthy? Do we do kids’ a disservice if we reward success and punish failure in school?
My Digital Story Critique is from the Good Life Project podcast with Jessica Lahey, an educator who speaks on the importance of children developing intrinsic motivation through autonomous living. Her message began when she made an alarming observation about the students in her classroom, saying, “Kids nowadays are largely made to feel useless.” She recalls that in America’s early history kids had a lot more responsibility of helping with siblings and jobs, making it so that families survived. Then as times changed the expectations shifted so that if kids helped with the working of the home, they got paid in the form of an allowance. Or if they got good grades, they were paid for that with money or shiny gadgets and such. There was a mentality shift from “this is your duty” to “we owe you something if you help and do well at school.” And what is the message being conveyed to kids? It’s performance based. It’s “I don’t care about learning; I just care about the end result.” And with this, a sense of ownership was lost.
Okay, I’m a parent and teacher and reward has been a big part of the end result with me as with so many others. She’s not saying that all that is bad. It’s not about judging our parenting habits, but to reevaluate them. Lahey asserts that failure can play an important part of character building and that it’s vital to let kids work through their tasks and problems themselves, not “pay” them or try to fix it for them. Not only is this the way for them to find workable solutions (and a sense of personal accomplishment), but an opportunity to build resilience.
She used an example from her own life about her son who often forgot his homework. This time, as it sat on the kitchen table, she had to fight the urge to run it up to the school for him. When she made the decision to not “save” him from the situation, it forced him to self-advocate with the teacher. He ended up having to redo it at recess and he was totally good with that result. Lahey felt jumping in would have robbed him of the valuable skill of negotiation and also managing his own organizational shortcomings. All too often adults miss these teachable moments that might look like mistakes on outside, but actually hold priceless growth opportunities that will serve our children well into their professional and personal futures.
I chose following traits from Ohler’s digital storytelling rubric to evaluate the effectiveness of this talk. In making my choices, I referred to the goal of the Good Life Project which can be summarized from their website:
“Together, we’re on a quest to help each other live more meaningful, connected and vital lives. No sleepwalking, no fluff, no delusion or confusion. We’re about living in the real world, pursuing our good lives in a way that is powerful and inspired, yet also sustainable and practical.”
The corporate business world seems to be moving toward this idea of embracing failure and lesson learning. Google has a department called simply X, and it’s completely devoted to flunking a product out before it hits the market (and I think we can all agree Google Glass should have never made it out of X). The point is, succeeding isn’t the most important aspect, it’s knowing when to say “It doesn’t work. It failed, and that’s okay. Let’s try something new.” Success and failure is far less about the end product and much more about the process. I think this should be taught more in our lives and at school.
Total Points: 26/30