This is a post written by two school leaders; Jeff Kubiak, current Head of School at The Gardner School of Arts & Sciences in Vancouver, WA, and Eric Ewald, current lead learner and chief storyteller at Van Allen Elementary School in North Liberty, IA.
Failure, in EDUCATION....Must not only be an option, but a certainty.
Remember the phrase from Blockbuster Movie “Apollo 13”? titled, “Failure is not an option”? I just found out it was written in by scriptwriters for the movie, not actually said by anyone from NASA. But wow, let’s use NASA as the example here. If NASA had never NOT failed, what would
our space program look like? How many iterations of rockets, spaceships, spacesuits and MARS rovers would they have NOT gone through?
As educators, the term FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION does NOT sit well with us.
As you look at today’s world and challenges, the educational institutes,our model companies, and especially some of our most inspiring heroes and athletes, one common trait holds true: Failure is a must. A given. A for sure. An absolute. A 100% guarantee to growth, success and beyond.
Next, let’s just look at a guy named Michael Phelps: 5 Olympic Teams, 28 Olympic Medals, 23 of them GOLD! Not everything was all roses for our fine dolphin-esque friend. Two DUI arrests, a viral photo of him smoking a bong, failed swim sets, bullied at school, diagnosed with ADHD and mental illness AND struggled in school. Now, he has a fiance, a baby boy, a great coaching job and endorsements galore. Seems to me that he learned from every one of those misfortunes we call failures and became without a doubt, the History’s Greatest Olympian Ever!
“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
- Thomas Wayne in Batman Begins
It’s okay to fail. It’s going to happen. We’ve got to embrace failing. We have to encourage failing as a part of the process. And then we have to get back up. We have to keep going. We have to relentlessly persevere. If/when we do these things...watch-out!
Failure + Perseverance = Success
Michael Jordan and Nike created one of my all-time favorite commercials that they titled “Failure.”
The commercial begins with Jordan stating, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.” What if Michael Jordan had given up after his first missed shot? What if he would have quit? We would have been robbed of witnessing one of the greatest clutch athletes of all-time!
Failure is ALL around us. So why are we, as a society, (sometimes) ashamed to fail? It’s okay. We have to make it okay. As educators (and parents) we have to ENCOURAGE OUR KIDS TO FAIL; we have to ENCOURAGE OUR KIDS TO LEARN FROM THEIR FAILURE; and then we have to ENCOURAGE OUR KIDS TO TRY AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN while cheering them on along the way.
As a child that grew-up in the 90’s, I get fixated on anything Michael Jordan fairly easily. Fortunately, for me, with this topic he is all over the place. He was featured in another great Nike commercial, titled “Maybe It’s My Fault.”
We all want to ‘Be LIke Mike.’ But let’s remember this message, from Mike, “I’ve failed over, and over, and over again in my life. And that is why, I succeed.”
Hey! How about a dude named Thomas Edison? You may have heard his name once or twice. Well, Thomas was called “too stupid to learn anything” by his teachers and classmates. He had over 1,000 failed attempts at inventing the lightbulb...Can you imagine? Talk about resilience, grit, tenacity and focus. Other non-winners, such as miining methods, cement companies, cabinetry, pianos...the list goes on and on didn’t work either for our friend TE. I think one of my most favorite quotes of his is “I have not failed 10,000 times, I have found 10,000 ways things did not work. Where would we be today without a light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera?
(Jeff) In my lifetime, I have failed over and over again in school ( yes, there were some D’s), sports ( missed the ‘88 Olympic Team by .12), relationships, music playing and arts to name a few.But I have to say, the BEST teachers and coaches I have had lead me to believe in myself, to try again and again, improve, and not give up...ever.
As leaders (we all are, by the way), this is what we MUST do everyday for all of our students, workers, friends, and family. Be there. Show them. Lead them. Encourage them. Cheer them on. Push to greater heights. Mentor. They ALL deserve it...and so do you and I.