Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When It's OK to Fail...and When It Isn't

I'm sure if you search the internet, listen to a motivational speaker, or talk to most teachers, you may have heard the phrase "It's ok to fail."  With the recent resurgence of Carol Dweck's book Mindset, it has become fashionable to say and promote this philosophy in school.  This post is not to tell you to embrace or abandon this philosophy, rather, if you say it, you better clearly communicate what you mean.

Recently, I have had conversations with multiple people who have an expertise outside of education that have come to me dumbfounded with what their children are being told in schools all around the country.  They say, "Ryan, my child's teacher told them it's ok to fail. It's ok for them to not try their best, because they will have the opportunity to re-take a test or re-do an assignment."

I respond by asking them, "Are you sure that's what the teacher told them or what they meant?"

If you are telling your kids, "It's ok to fail" because you are promoting risk-taking, or you do not want to see them put unnecessary stress on themselves over a class assignment or assessment, or you are promoting the process over the product, then go for it.  

But this is what many of them are hearing: "It's ok if I slack off because I can do it again."  

I am a proponent of standards-based grading practices, and also believe in the process of re-takes because I believe it is far more important THAT they know it than WHEN they know it.  However, as educators, we must be extremely CLEAR when we communicate this philosophy to our students.  While it may be ok to fail, it is NOT ok to give a subpar effort.

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