Saturday, February 5, 2011

On Failure

I had someone this week ask me what to do if his or her engineering project "failed". Would he or she still have to present to the class?

I've never been good with failure. Something about coming from a driven family, my mother being a second generation immigrant and my father being the youngest of five where his dad was a longshoreman. We scrapped and scraped in many ways because we had to.

I even remember a time in my life when it felt like failure was an impossibility, when everything I did seemed to turn to gold. Why think about failing when it was not a reality?

The truth of it is, during that golden period I was the most despondent I've ever been. Accomplishment, academic and athletic success, and I was still hunted inside. I remember feeling embittered that honors could not make me happy inside or bring together my broken family.

Now, married thirteen years with four kids, I've had plenty of opportunities to fail. Plan a notable family activity, surely one for the scrapbooks, and end up mad with frustration instead. Promise myself I won't say that extra mean thing on the tip of my tongue. Too late. Love someone so hard that they'll stay on the straight and narrow. Nope.

It all extends to this class in a way. I feel like my growth as a person shows up in what I say and affects my students. I've had a lot of lumps and honestly get uncommonly excited about failure. It's that failure is instructive and presses the experience deep into our minds. My acceptance of "messing up" allows me more grace with others.

Failure or not, everyone will present. It's better that way, more honest and revealing, and those who have their project go awry will probably getting something juicier from the experience than those who got it on the first try.

1 comment:

  1. I guess failure does provide a better chance to learn. :P

    (my pen name is "Gab Coulter" [])


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