The Power of “Yet”

As educators we all want our students to be successful.  We work hard each and every day for ALL students to help them be successful.  There are many great instructional practices that we employ on a daily basis to help them be successful.  Great teachers use all of their tools in their toolboxes to help ALL students be successful.

Each day administrators go into classrooms to see all of these wonderful instructional practices put in place for students.  The one instructional practice that we do not get to see very often first hand is undoubtedly the most important, failure.  Failure leads to the path of success only if you learn from your failure.  Failure is where all of the lessons are.

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We need to teach students that failure is OK.  Many parents do not feel this way.  Many see a B or even a C on a progress report and just go through the roof (I too have been subject to this).  As I reflect back, I realize that I should have taken far different positions with my own children.  Seeing them struggle with trying to master something is OK.  If we swoop in and do it for them each and every time, they will never master the skill they need to.

These are reasons why we need to teach kids the Power of Yet.  Many students go through each day and say things like “I am not successful” or “I cannot find the answer”.  By teaching students that adding one word to each of these sentences, drastically changes the outlook for kids.

  • I am not successful, yet.
  • I cannot find the answer, yet.

These put hope in their despair.  Teaching students a growth mindset is important.  It will help them be sufficient on their own, want to have productive relationships in their lives, and enable them to seek new learning each day.  Daily growth in learning and relationships with others will lead students down a successful path.  One statement that I use on a regular basis with students is that “Failure is the rehearsal for success”.

I love this video by Will Smith on Failure.

Failure is NOT an option! Or is it?

We put a great deal of emphasis on that our schools are failing and that our kids are not learning in schools today. It is true, the American education system is in a triage situation and needs to have attention placed the critical needs. Many parents and teachers are concerned with the fact that students are failing classes, even I am. But take a moment and look at what failing truly is. Does a child learn something by failing? In my opinion, they do. They learn how not to accomplish something. Failing does not mean unsuccessful, but we place great emphasis on the fact that failing is unacceptable. Let’s take a look at some famous failures.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Failure!

At 30 years old, Steve Jobs was forced to leave the company he build from the ground up. Failure!

Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he lacked “imagination” and “original ideas”. Failure!

Oprah Winfery was demoted from being a news anchor because she was “not fit enough for television”. Failure!

Albert Einstein could not speak until the age of 4 and teachers told him that he would not amount to much in life. Failure!

It is important for us as educators to let every student know that failure is just a rehearsal for success.  Kids are worried about failing, and they should be, but when they do, and they will, they need to know that they are not failures as a person.

Traditional testing has become very degrading to those students who see a number that is not considered passing.  But those same students could go out and fix my truck without much hesitation and go to work as a mechanic and make twice what I do.  So which one is the failure, the student who has volumes more knowledge than I about mechanics of machines or me, the guys with two college degrees, two masters degrees, and an almost completed Ed.S?

This reminds me of a Big Bang Theory episode where all four guys were driving and something happened to Leonard’s car.  He asked, ” Does anyone here know anything about the internal combustion engine?”  Every one of them said, “Yes, tons.”  “Does anyone here know how to work on the internal combustion engine?”  Their reply, “Absolutely not!”  That was three guys who all had terminal degrees and Wolowitz of course (BBT fans will know why that is funny) who had immense knowledge of many things in this world but could not even fix their car.  Are they failures?  I would say at that moment for that circumstance they were.  Again, being a failure at some things is not bad.  Failure is just a rehearsal for success.  I fail regularly at taking out the trash and helping with the laundry, just ask my wife.