let students fail

Why parents and teachers should let students fail

If you talk to enough entrepreneurs, they will tell you (often repeatedly), that they have learned to fail (‘and fail fast’), and that failure has taught them more than success. It’s almost as if that failure is the point of what they do, rather than an obstacle on the way.

Allowing for the exaggerated nature of this reverence for failure, this isn’t a life lesson that school kids get. Failure remains something that isn’t tolerated in schools. Failure is not seen as inevitable, failure is the doorway to punishment.

Parents Letting Students Fail

Now, parents will be grouching that they don’t want failure for their nippers, and this isn’t to say that schools should encourage new ways for pupils to knack up and should encourage them to get low marks in exams and fail to deliver homework. But do schools look at failure in a healthy way? Or even at different levels of progress?

Everyone learns at different paces, but throughout school life pupils are ranked on their progressions in relation to each other, not in terms of their own improvement and learning ‘journey’. And in that way, schools punish those who meander on their way to mastery, teaching them life lessons about work and experience that they will never come across again.

So, while a pupil may face the wrath of a teacher for failing to understand a maths concept on the first pass, any employer worth their salt would show a bit of patience, invest time in the employee.

Students And The Workplace

Quite simply, hierarchy and punishment, the keystones of the pupil/teacher relationship are not represented in the workplace any more, not since the 19th century factory model faded from our economies. If school is meant to prepare people for the work environment, then schools need to reflect modern work environments – different paces of progress, specialisation and flatter management models, as well as a wider range of skills.

Not hierarchy and single points of authority.

The failure to embrace failure is, of course, another sign of that failing.

Written by Jimmy Leach

Jimmy Leach is a digital consultant, working with clients in the UK, USA and UAE. And places which spell out their names properly too.

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