Do we fail ourselves?

Bird Droppings March 15, 2011
Do we fail ourselves?

I left the house just before the rain, sort of sounds like a song starting off. An old Neil Young song Last Trip to Tulsa starts something like that. Anyhow I drove on down the road went by QT since I forgot my water bottle at the house. I have got to have that Smartwater. It seems by the time I got to the school it was really raining hard and as buses started coming this morning traffic was running behind. It was a news story that caught my attention and a comment I made to another teacher as I walked in. The concept of loss control is not a new one. The news in Japan is not getting better as the nuclear reactor is slowly disintegrating and fears of a melt down are accelerating. Many loss controls measures were in place but it seems not enough for a nearly nine point earthquake and tsunami. So often it is if we do not want to learn living on a fault line can have its issues.

“One of the reasons people stop learning is that they become less and less willing to risk failure.” John W. Gardner

I began the morning looking through articles written by several authors. One was a favorite, William Edelen, a former pastor and fighter pilot who writes about numerous topics. Two others that caught my eye this morning were by Arthur Schopenhauer, a 19th century philosopher, and Joseph Campbell, a leading writer on mythology both were extensive writers. As my reading went further some how I ended up back on John Gardner.
I have been struggling with the idea of why students quit learning for some time. On a recent excursion to Wal-Mart I ran into several former students who had all quit school. One of the students shook my hand and said he was working on his GED and working hard. Another of the students said he was working hard doing foundations for houses and raising his new baby. As I looked another was arguing with her boyfriend across the aisles at Wal-Mart and I thought back in each of their lives that I had was aware of. All failed in part or all of graduation tests in high school. One of the students failed a portion three times by a total of eight points. This student did not graduate and she opted to get a GED she was tired of failing or risking failing again.

“I have always felt that although someone may defeat me, and I strike out in a ball game, the pitcher on the particular day was the best player. But I know when I see him again; I’m going to be ready for his curve ball. Failure is a part of success. There is no such thing as a bed of roses all your life. But failure will never stand in the way of success if you learn from it.” Hank Aaron

For so many of us we take defeat failure in stride and move on, but for some students failure is a daily event.

“You win only if you aren’t afraid to lose.” Rocky Aoki

“No one ever won a chess game by betting on each move. Sometimes you have to move backward to get a step forward.” Amar Gopal Bose

Amazing as I think back on life to when I was in fourth grade and a teacher was grading me harder than those around me. I think she thought I wouldn’t notice. My friend next to me had two wrong and an A and I had two wrong and a C. My mother asked what was going on during a parent conference and the teacher stated I wasn’t working up to my ability so she was grading harder. I quit trying in school for some time actually until about two years into my undergraduate studies in college.

“Failure does not count. If you accept this, you’ll be successful. What causes most people to fail is that after one failure, they’ll stop trying.” Frank Burford

“Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver

We set in motion at young ages the ability to succeed and or the ability to make excuses. As I am watching kids grow up and looking at where they learn I have found example is the best teacher and they watch parents. If we make excuses and choose to not succeed what are the odds our children will succeed?

“A man’s life is interesting primarily when he has failed — I well know. For it’s a sign that he tried to surpass himself.” Georges Clemenceau

“You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.” Edwin Louis Cole

I think back to walking through the Edison museum in Fort Myers Florida and one exhibit is a barrel of light bulbs that were all failures and the sign reads it took over 10,00 failures to succeed. But it did work, as I went further and read Coles thought about drowning and was applying it to students that I have currently. Many students have given up because the school and society has given up. In graduate school you take statistics and you gather data, sort and develop graphs and charts about who will succeed and who will fail and soon students know your thoughts and soon students live up to there graphs and charts

“Making students accountable for test scores works well on a bumper sticker and it allows many politicians to look good by saying that they will not tolerate failure. But it represents a hollow promise. Far from improving education, high- stakes testing marks a major retreat from fairness, from accuracy, from quality, and from equity.” Sen. Paul Wellstone (1944-2002)

“Rescuing our schools from tougher standards” – “Learning by doing, common shorthand for the idea that active participation helps students to understand ideas or acquire skills, is an established principle of progressive education. Much less attention, however, has been paid to the complementary possibility that teachers are most effective when they show rather than just tell. In fact, this idea doesn’t even seem to have a name — so let’s call it “teaching by doing.” Alfie Kohn

“We need to learn from— and, fittingly, to challenge — one another’s ideas. But most important is a basic commitment to make sure that our students — future teachers, parents, and citizens — are able and willing to take a stand.” Alfie Kohn, Challenging Students . . . And How to Have More of Them

Alfie Kohn has been writing about issues in public school for the past few years he is a proponent of public schools and it is how we teach he is trying to address. He promotes instilling a desire to learn rather than taking away that desire and promoting success rather than failure. Hopefully one day when I go to Wal-Mart the students approaching me will be all talking of success as well as their futures. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

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