Remembering our failures can launch future successes

Yesterday I took time out of our normal teaching calendar to discuss something I deemed really important with my students: failure and tragedy. It was the yearly observation of the NASA Day of Remembrance. We discussed the the sacrifices made by the Apollo 1, Challenger STS-51L, and Columbia STS-107 astronauts. We had briefly discussed Apollo 1’s 100% oxygen environment the other day while talking about the Earth’s atmosphere.

We also discussed failures. Sometimes, like these tragedies, failure is a huge set back. But can you imagine where we would be now if we had given up after Apollo 1? The Cold War was mostly fought – and won – through a successful race to the moon. What if we had given up? Failures help us learn, improve, redesign, focus on a goal and safely reaching it. Failure can be the springboard to success.

Yet in school, we do not celebrate failures. Failure is to be avoided. It is not celebrated. It’s not about growth – only current achievement and success. How can I foster a community where failure is safe and important in the classroom when my school and district is based on a system that expects to always perform at high levels. Students who fail, are retained, don’t meet expectations often continue to fall behind and have difficulty finding success. The parents of the gifted students I teach are unaccustomed to their children making grades below an A. They focus on the immediate and not the journey. How can we shift this in education?

All I know is that like our space aspirations, in our schools the answer will be to


Hopefully one day our education system will be one where we focus on the overall journey and the process of learning. We will watch the growth in each individual child. I know there are schools doing this but it seems to be the exception. One day, it will be the norm. I just know it.

By Janelle

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

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