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Failure is an Option

by Tiera S. Coston

Better Mistakes

For most of us, the words "mistake" and "failure" conjure up feelings of insecurity, humiliation and anxiety. And if the the words have such a negative effect, then think of how we feel when we actually make a mistake or fail at something. Further complicate the situation by imagining that the person who made the mistake or failed at something is a young college student who is already feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared. I propose a shift in the way we view mistakes and failure. We, as educators, must model to our students a mindset in which mistakes and failure are a natural part of mastering subject matter. We must teach them how to use their mistakes as valuable information that can illuminate their road to mastery. Mistakes are one of the most important things that can happen in the classroom because they have the power to direct students where to focus their efforts. Ultimately, academic success comes from how students feel about and use their mistakes. Helping your students to understand that failure is not only an option, but a necessity, is one of the most important things you will ever teach them. I certainly do not suggest that facilitating this shift in mindset in your classroom will be easy; it will require a great deal of work for both you and the students. However, consistent effort and a willingness to try (and fail at) different approaches will yield students who are in a better position to learn and succeed (master subject matter). Failure is an Option: Helping Your Students Make Their Mistakes Work for Them may help to give you a starting point if you would like to facilitate this type of paradigm shift in your classroom. Also, here is the form if you are interested in using the RAM Strategy.

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