Failure? Or is it lacking the tools for success?

My driveway of snow shoveling failure

Today, in the midst of snow day #4, I decided I should tackle my snow covered driveway. I did this for a couple of reasons. One, I was convinced we would have school tomorrow, so I would need to get the car out of the garage. And two, even if we did not have school, I need to get to the airport tomorrow.

So I went outside armed with the only thing I had for snow removal: a shovel. Except, this was no snow shovel. It was a garden shovel, which I learned is rather ineffective at removing snow and ice.

Over two hours later, my driveway still had snowy slush and ice on it, the sun was setting, and everything was starting to refreeze. I felt like a total failure, and uploaded my photo to Facebook and Twitter saying as much.

Well, I received lots of comments about how to remove snow, disbelief that I even attempted to remove the snow without a snow shovel, and one that really got me thinking. My uncle mentioned that this is how my students who fail science feel.

Which got me thinking even more. Why did I fail at my driveway snow shoveling? I lacked the tools for success. In order to properly shovel snow, a snow shovel is required. Given that my snowy driveway was also encased in a layer of ice, deicers like salt, sand or gravel would have been helpful. I did not fail because I did not try hard enough. I did not fail because I did not apply myself. I did not fail because I had not studied about snow shoveling. I simply failed because I lacked what I needed to be successful.

How many times has this happened to students in my classroom? I can think of one dear student who is struggling in my class. The student tries really hard. The student studies. The student does all that the student can, but the student failed. What tools do my students need to succeed that I have not provided for them? What tools do they need to succeed that our school has not provided?

Today’s episode in snow shoveling failure turned out to be a great lesson for me. When a student fails, find out what they are lacking and provide the tools they need to succeed.

By Janelle

Space geek, science nerd extraordinaire. That's me! Want to know more, visit the About page.


  1. What a great reminder. I came to that same realization about one of my students and the probable reason for a change in his class behavior yesterday.

    The good news is, the sun can come out today and do it’s work much better! I feel for you trying to shovel without a snow shovel. That’s frustrating work.

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