Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's Okay to Try and Fail....

... and try and fail again. It's not okay to try and fail and fail to try again. Love this quote. I wrote it down the very first time I heard it from my first Quantum Learning instructor. It is a great life lesson that helps define "Failure Leads to Success", one of the QL tenets. As we gear up for the new year, it's important to remember this, because everyone in our classroom, including us, is going to make mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them.
I was reminded of this when I tried to surprise my husband yesterday by trimming the hedges with the electric trimmer. I had never before used this handy-dandy gadget, believe it or not. That didn't stop me, though. I donned some special, very-unattractive-protective glasses, and I was ready. I plugged in the super-long extension cord (Who knew we had an outlet on the outside of the house?) and hesitantly went to work. I had completed one prickly pruning when the trimmer mysteriously stopped working. I stood there, trying to stir up an explanation, when I noticed a tiny bit of something orange on the sidewalk. Hmm... It didn't take me long to figure out that the orange bits were rubber from the extension cord. I had took a "little nick" out of it with the trimmer. Grrr...
I had to go to great lengths to locate another, much shorter extension cord to complete my task. I finished the job, but it probably took twice as long as it should have. I took a picture of the front of the house with my phone and texted it to my shrubbery-hating husband. I texted a caption that read, "Not bad for my first time. Only had one mishap!" Almost instantly, I received a grateful text in return. In his excitement, he didn't even ask me to explain the mishap.
Later, on the phone, after more profuse thanks, he asked, "So you cut the cord, huh?" I laughed out loud and asked how he knew. He said he had done it a number of times over the years and that he didn't care if I cut the thing in half, as long as he didn't have to trim those bushes. He went on to say that it would be simple to repair it. Who knew?
Mistakes are a part of learning, but we only learn from them if we understand what we did incorrectly. Sometimes it is obvious, like the chunk of orange rubber laying at my feet. Other times, it's not so obvious and we need someone there to explain things to us. This year, in our classrooms, we should strive for an atmosphere in which risk-taking is encouraged and mistakes are celebrated. We need to instill in our students a sense of agency, a "can-do" spirit. But it is equally important to be there for our students, supporting, explaining, and encouraging them along the way. If we are lucky, we may learn something along the way as well.