Mr. L's School Blog

  • Lesson One--the moral of the story

    Posted by Kert Lenseigne on 2/9/2021

    Lesson One--continued (if you haven't been to this space recently, be sure to read the post just previous to this one for part one--it will make more sense!)


    Now the moral of the story. 


    Teach Failure. 


    We don’t do that. In teacher school, we really aren’t taught how to do that. As parents, it doesn’t come naturally because it is so counterintuitive. Yet, it is THE most important teaching we could possibly gift to our children.


    This is what learning is all about. This is what LIFE is all about. No one leads a life of perfection such that everything falls perfectly into place, and on schedule, each and every time. There is no growth there. If there is one guarantee in life, in addition to the fact it ends, it is that life presents challenges and opportunities to both succeed and fail. Every opportunity comes with the potential for both outcomes. 


    A famous coach a while ago quipped that he learned so much more from his failures than from his successes, from the losses than the wins. The wise coach or athlete studies NOT the successful plays or the games won, but the failed plays and games lost to learn, and grow, and “do better next time.” 


    As teachers here at school, we, without intention, sometimes set our kids up for bigger failures in their future if we don’t also teach them how to be when they fail. But we aren’t the only ones who do this. 


    We see this embodied in even our youngest children; even among some of our  newest kindergarteners. You see...

  don’t come by this naturally. They don’t inherit perfectionism. They are taught this. They are taught it every time an adult in their lives steps in and says “You should have done this.” Or “Next time do it this way.” Or “I told you so, you should have listened to me.” Oh the pressure we add to the shoulders of our children in the interest of success and perfection. Again, all of this is mostly unintentional with the aim to reduce pain and suffering of loss, of failure, of being wrong. 


    It’s just that, it doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn't be this way. Believe it or not, at school, we spend quite a bit of time helping children emotionally deal with, manage, and cope with failure. We get the BIGGEST meltdowns, by far, when children fail. And the biggest of all meltdowns come from the expectations of the child themselves. When they know they have failed, when the answer was wrong, or the word pronounced incorrectly, or the letter not written the way the teacher wanted or the way the book said it should be written, THAT is often the times we get the most dramatic anger, and tears, and shutdowns. Sadly, if we don’t understand what is happening and teach through these important moments well enough, a child potentially learns that the best way to cope, is to simply not try in the first place. And there can be no greater tragedy in life than a person who has given up because the risk of learning is too great, too painful—so they no longer even try. Or worse, even sabotage themselves to prove to others “see, I knew I couldn’t do that...I failed anyway.”


    Learning demands failure. Period.


    The wisest teachers know that mistakes are ALWAYS opportunities to learn and grow. Every time we admonish, correct, or sometimes even call attention to a child’s mistakes, we rob them of an opportunity to grow self-confidence, resiliency, and self-agency. We prevent all this when best we serve to teach how to manage failure. When we teach them how to fall. 


    “Now, my kids, as you learn this new thing, here is what you will do when you fail at this because you will fail, you will pick yourself up, you will wonder anew, and you will grow. And, you can even laugh when you do it.”  Life is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be hard.


    If you live by this creed, if you think deeply about it, there can be no such thing as failure. Any thing we do that doesn’t quite meet the mark, is not a failure; it’s just one more great and awesome teaching to add to our personal narratives, the stories we author in our lives, that move us along with just a bit more wisdom. If anyone should judge us to evaluate success (or failure), then, well, that’s on them. The only person whose weight of judgment matters most in our lives, is the one we talk to the most every day. It’s the person who stares back at us when we look in the mirror. 


    Teaching kids early and often how to fail gives them the most important gift of all—the gift of accepting themselves no matter any outcome. If done well, there will be no obstacle too large for growing their extraordinary minds, hearts, and lives.