I Am a Failure

I am a failure.

I have failed my students time and time again this year because of lack of planning, because I get in over my head, and because I want to be great at too many things. I fail them when I am sick and impatient, when I can’t find any more ways to help them understand, when I don’t provide constructive feedback, and when I forget to follow up on how they are feeling.

I have failed so many times as a teacher. We all have.

What we don’t do very often is admit it.

I recently shared this video with my students about failure…

I was hoping the video would inspire my students to take risks. However, if I’m honest, I think I loved it much more than they did. We all make so many mistakes and yet we spend so much time talking about success. You know what I mean… Who hasn’t ever felt inadequate in a room full of amazing people?

There are many reasons that we fail as educators: stress, lack of sleep, lack of time, lack of planning, and the simple fact that our job is very emotionally draining. It is natural for us to take on others’ problems and want to “fix” them. In doing so, we make others’ failures our own as well. We are embarrassed of the failures that begin piling up over time… but it is our failures that make us human.

We teach our students to make mistakes, but it’s so easy to forget that we have the right to make mistakes ourselves. It’s so easy to forget to take care of ourselves. It’s so easy to focus on those who are more experienced, more amazing than us. But we have to stop treating failure as a bad word. We have to stop brushing it under the rug. There is absolutely nothing wrong with failure. We all have bad days, bad weeks, bad experiences, bad ideas… The important thing is that we admit it, reflect upon it, and then use it to help us move on to greater things. Failure is not a means to success; admitting failure is.

We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.
– John Dewey

I think I’ve been unable to blog recently because I was afraid of failing here too. It’s so easy to fall into that trap. It’s so easy to think we’re not good enough and to wallow in our own shortcomings. But today, I choose not to wallow. I choose to reflect upon my failures and to develop new ideas because of them. I choose to accept myself for who I am, which includes my mistakes and my failures.

I really do love this quote from Thomas Edison:


cc flickr photo shared by Regina Hackenburg

However, I also think that Tara and Niha from the video have a point. Sometimes, we jump too quickly to label our failure as success. We look for the silver lining before we’ve had time to grieve the failure. I think we need to accept failure for what it is rather than immediately labeling it as success. There doesn’t always have to be a bright side… At least not right away. It’s when we reflect upon the not-so-bright side that we can create change.


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