Friday, September 16, 2016

Commitment to Improvement: Why Failure IS an Option

*Part I of my Random Prompt Series: Someone on Twitter gives me a random topic and I churn out an education-related blog post in a matter of 10-15 minutes*


The idea that success is mandatory for any kind of benefit to occur is outdated. The phrase uttered during Apollo 13 - Failure is not an Option - was certainly appropriate for that time and place. After all, who would consider the idea of stranding members of NASA in their most trying of times?

However, as a general rule, the vast majority of us live and deal with failure on a daily basis. We fail to wake up as early as we need to. We fail to proofread that assignment we post to Google Classroom. We fail to provide one-on-one instruction to a particular student who has shown a need for help. We fail to get our papers graded and back to students in a timely manner.

But guess what? Unlike Apollo 13, there is usually no doubt as to whether we will be there to watch the sun come up the next day.

As humans we are a resilient bunch that often stares failed attempts at "success" in the face and says, "Just you wait...until tomorrow!"

The truth is, our commitment to improving our teaching craft carries far more weight than our ability to actually pull off the best lessons day after day after day. As there is no such thing as the "Perfect Teacher" we should give up the pursuit of this fictitious title and instead concentrate on our commitment to becoming a little better TODAY.

While we can - and should - learn from YESTERDAY, there is usually very little we can do to change the outcome. And certainly, who knows what TOMORROW will bring?

All we can really do is concentrate on TODAY and commit to making it the best possible day for ourselves, our colleagues, and - most importantly - our students.

Modeling such an attitude in front of peer and pupils - and make no mistake about it, we are left in a vulnerable state if we do - goes a long way towards teaching the following life lessons:

1. Each day is a new day. While consequences of certain actions do stay with us, we do have a clean slate each morning to make THIS DAY the best it can be.

2. Failure leads us to know what NOT to do. We must avoid repetition that leads to unwanted results. Rather, commit to trying something new each day or building on those things that do yield good fruit.

3. Several sequential small steps lead us to desired outcomes. Commitment to daily iteration and
improvement pays off in the long run - even if measurable results are not seen immediately. Think dieting: No one loses 25 pounds after one salad and one lap around the track.

4. Commitment gives us purpose and direction. Unlike "lost souls" we will know where we are going and how to get there. Plus it makes us feel better! What student does not want to be around a positive, driven, and smiling teacher??

So rather than approach our 5th period Chemistry class as the Apollo 13 spacecraft going down, we can instead commit to winning each day in tiny baby steps.

As we commit to improve, we will see that failure is not only an option - it is a valuable component of our existence.

Follow me as I strive to improve my knowledge and health. Check me out on Twitter and Instagram.


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