Category Archives: education

Failing Successfully Part II

As a teacher, coach, and now an administrator I have witnessed student disappointment with failure.  Of course it is natural to be disappointed with failure. The typical mindset is we prepared, studied, collaborated, practiced, all in vain when we fall short.  My questions regarding a momentary lack of success are: Do I hold myself accountable for this temporary lack of success? Did I actually prepare adequately? and, Was my preparation all in vain?

It is easy to pass the buck. Throughout our daily routine there are always a number of obstacles that may prevent us from accomplishing our daily goals and tasks.  The temptation is always strong to point to these obstacles and lay the blame on them for our failure. In order to move on productively, we need to confront this mentality and understand that we are the primary factor in our own failures.  As human beings, we love when people acknowledge us personally in our success but we tend to diminish our role in our personal shortcomings. The truth is, our success is based on our initiative but it is also largely dependent upon the support of others. Personally, I am only successful when I am surrounded by a gifted faculty and staff.  Their ability to do their job ensures I will have the opportunity to successfully complete mine as long as I take the initiative. In our middle school, when a student encounters a momentary lapse in success, I first want them to examine their personal role in this situation. Then I want the student to examine those around them and identify those that will support them on their road to success.

 

Naturally, after we examine ourselves personally and our role in the failure, the next step is to determine ‘What did I actually do to prepare myself?’ Usually, an honest evaluation of our preparation leads to some quick conclusions.  Our lack of proper preparation often rises to the surface as a primary cause for our failure. This brings me back… and I hesitate to share my experience with college Chemistry, but I will. I studied hard for my first Chemistry quiz, to the point where I was confident entering the lecture hall that day.  A few days later this confidence took a major hit when I received my score. If my memory serves correct, my grade was a 37%! Now, I could have blamed all kinds of outside obstacles as college life has a surplus of them. But instead I self-examined, took responsibility and came to the conclusion that my personal preparation was clearly inadequate.  The day I received the exam was the day I went to the library and took advantage of the free tutoring services. The story ends well as I went on to earn an “A” in Chemistry. I also came to realize that although “I earned” a good grade for the semester, this success was largely dependent upon the help of others.

 

So was all my preparation in vain? After all I did score a 37% on that quiz, absolutely not.  Failure was the catalyst for future success. That quiz provided the momentum to take personal responsibility, examine my preparation, which then led me to reach out for more support moving forward, and, finally, I was able to succeed. As a teacher, coach, and now an administrator I have witnessed student disappointment with failure.  Of course it is natural to be disappointed with failure. The typical mindset is we prepared, studied, collaborated, practiced, all in vain when we fall short.  My questions regarding a momentary lack of success are: Do I hold myself accountable for this temporary lack of success? Did I actually prepare adequately? and, Was my preparation all in vain?

It is easy to pass the buck. Throughout our daily routine there are always a number of obstacles that may prevent us from accomplishing our daily goals and tasks.  The temptation is always strong to point to these obstacles and lay the blame on them for our failure. In order to move on productively, we need to confront this mentality and understand that we are the primary factor in our own failures.  As human beings, we love when people acknowledge us personally in our success but we tend to diminish our role in our personal shortcomings. The truth is, our success is based on our initiative but it is also largely dependent upon the support of others. Personally, I am only successful when I am surrounded by a gifted faculty and staff.  Their ability to do their job ensures I will have the opportunity to successfully complete mine as long as I take the initiative. In our middle school, when a student encounters a momentary lapse in success, I first want them to examine their personal role in this situation. Then I want the student to examine those around them and identify those that will support them on their road to success.

 

Naturally, after we examine ourselves personally and our role in the failure, the next step is to determine ‘What did I actually do to prepare myself?’ Usually, an honest evaluation of our preparation leads to some quick conclusions.  Our lack of proper preparation often rises to the surface as a primary cause for our failure. This brings me back… and I hesitate to share my experience with college Chemistry, but I will. I studied hard for my first Chemistry quiz, to the point where I was confident entering the lecture hall that day.  A few days later this confidence took a major hit when I received my score. If my memory serves correct, my grade was a 37%! Now, I could have blamed all kinds of outside obstacles as college life has a surplus of them. But instead I self-examined, took responsibility and came to the conclusion that my personal preparation was clearly inadequate.  The day I received the exam was the day I went to the library and took advantage of the free tutoring services. The story ends well as I went on to earn an “A” in Chemistry. I also came to realize that although “I earned” a good grade for the semester, this success was largely dependent upon the help of others.

 

So was all my preparation in vain? After all I did score a 37% on that quiz, absolutely not.  Failure was the catalyst for future success. That quiz provided the momentum to take personal responsibility, examine my preparation, which then led me to reach out for more support moving forward, and, finally, I was able to succeed. Students need to recognize that failure is temporary and when we examine our failures closely, we unearth the seeds for success.

 

 

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Failing Successfully

 

Image result for failure success

This morning I was listening to a podcast sermon, and I thought the topic was perfect for our students and their families. Indeed the topic is great for anybody. The message was simple; “Do not be afraid of failure.” The speaker talked about how the fear of failure has reached endemic levels with our children and as we all know this is readily evident in the adult world. Fortunately, failure is a part of life. The apostle Peter is widely considered one of the most important or influential of all the disciples. It was Peter that Jesus spoke to when he said: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). It was also this trusted disciple that failed when he denied Christ not once, but three times (John 18:15-27). In many ways, Peter represents all human beings in a sense that in one moment he is immensely faithful and the next moment he fails in his faith. Although Peter failed, he ultimately did become the rock which provided the foundation for the church.

 

I saw the same message in the secular world echoed by Jeff Bezos the CEO of Amazon. Mr. Bezos believes that when he is older, it will not be the failures that he regrets, but instead, it will be the opportunities that he never took because he was scared of failing. We should always remember that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. We can’t be afraid to apply ourselves fully to our endeavors. For students, and all people it is still easier to fail a test we did not adequately prepare for than one in which they felt they prepared. I encourage our students to apply themselves fully to their studies, and if a disappointing grade is still the result, it then becomes a learning opportunity. How can failing become a learning opportunity?  Is it in our ability to understand ourselves, our shortcomings and the ability to develop the perseverance to look for a new approach?  Although when we find ourselves in these moments, it can be discouraging, we need to remember that failing well is the key to success.

Malcolm X

 

Malcolm X

 

February is Black History Month and I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to publicly acknowledge my all-time favorite civil rights leader.  I really got to know who Malcolm X was from Alex Haley’s biography and later the movie which was based on the book and directed by Spike Lee.  Being a younger male testosterone fueled football player, I felt as if I could identify with Malcolm’s more aggressive approach to Civil Rights when compared to the more peaceful Satyagraha methods championed by Dr. Martin Luther King.  But what I really came to appreciate was the transformation of Malcolm X.  I really enjoy testimonies about the transformation of the human character and that is what you have with Malcolm X.  Malcolm’s persona changed significantly over the course of his life.  He was a burglar, then a prisoner, then a devout Muslim who preached separatism before finally converting to someone who recognized the beauty in all races while preaching racial reconciliation.  Often times we remember the fiery rhetoric of Malcolm X but frequently forget that his message had changed at the time of his tragic assassination.  

 

Malcolm had converted to Islam during his time in prison and when he was released he quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the leaders of the Nation of Islam movement here in the United States. Malcolm’s first transformation was from a burglar to a devout Muslim leader preaching an extreme approach to Civil Rights.  His second transformation occurred when he took his pilgrimage to Mecca where he prayed alongside Muslims of many different races.  He then realized that racial harmony was in fact possible.

 

The human character is a fascinating thing.  We need to remember that we can grow, change, and become enlightened as we continue to live our lives while interacting with many different people.  This is what some psychologists call the “growth mindset.”  That is what happened to Malcolm.  His story is a powerful testimony to the power of love which can change all of us for the better.  So for the month of February, I like to continuously remember Malcolm X  not only for his fiery message and outstanding rhetoric, but for the transformation of his spirit, which ultimately led to him to understand that racial reconciliation was possible.