A Teacher’s Guide to Modelling Failure

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It seems I can’t go onto the teacher twittersphere or visit a conference without seeing this delightful gem somewhere.

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This slide or some variation of it is often found in a discussion around Grit or Growth Mindset, two ideas that have gained so much traction in education that I’m feeling the need to capitalise them. Now, as with a lot of things I see in professional development I have one question.

How is this actionable in my classroom? What will I do differently tomorrow?

Lately the staff at my school have taken to flipped learning in a big way. Almost daily now people are asking for my help (as the technology coach and flipped learning enthusiast) in getting setup to make a video lesson.

Usually this involves me getting them the necessary software and hardware, giving them a quick lesson and pep talk about not being afraid of the camera. Then I give them some privacy or send them home to make their videos. All too often, I see them looking like this the next day.
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They stayed up until the early hours, doing 50 takes to get the perfect lesson made. Editing out all the “Fails” until only the very best lesson remains. They don’t want any mistakes in their video.

But where will our students learn their Grit and their Growth Mindset if we’re not modelling failure and how to properly deal with it? How to brush off failure, see it for what it is (first attempt at learning apparently) and keep going.

Never has the virtue of showing students how to fail been more apparent to me than when I started teaching coding. Computer programming, as a profession can basically be described as Long periods of failure punctuated by small moments of success.

So this is why, when I teach, and particularly when I teach coding, I leave all the failure in my videos and show them how I deal with it and how to move closer to those smaller moments of success through, persistence, Grit and Growth Mindset. I walk them through from the moment I stuff up, through troubleshooting the problem and finally (hopefully) coming to a solution.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a short “Lowlights” video from a recent topic I was teaching. Enjoy my failure and try your best to embrace your own.

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