Letting Failure Fuel Success

I work in a school.

Unfortunately, failure doesn’t always precede success in school settings. I’ve been one of the culprits at times, not allowing kids to try again, making scores final before they should be.

One of the things that has steadily changed my mind about overall grading practices is drama. As I started teaching drama, it became painfully obvious to me that one of the great benefits and necessities of drama is failure. Everyone fails at drama. Everyone misses a line. Everyone flubs a delivery. Everyone has an off day.

We had one of those today. This morning, my group performed a song from our performance to a group of students at school. It was the same song that they nailed perfectly during the performance the night before. Today, for some reason, everything went wrong. A lyric was missed and it through off everyone. The entire piece crumbled in a frightening and painful way with the entire cast standing awkwardly on stage, not knowing in the slightest how to continue or what to do.

When they eventually left stage, they ran outside and let out a litany of “oh my goodnesses” because they could not believe that they flubbed things so badly.

But I didn’t yell. I didn’t love their performance. There was not much too love, but I was interested in how they would rebound.

It was dramatic. Failure on stage in front of peers is an excellent motivator. They all practiced and went over the mistake. When they performed again later in the day, they nailed it. When they performed this evening, they nailed it.

They learned. They grew. They felt pain, and they felt triumph. That’s real life.

I don’t need to give a long list of famous people who needed to fail in order to succeed. We all know the stories. But do we ever do anything with those stories. Are we allowing our kids to fail? To fall? To embarrass themselves? Are we allowing them to look awkward on-stage and not belittle them or ream them out?

No one is perfect, so why do we expect them to act that way. We need to allow failure to lead to success.

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