Celebrating Failures

I remember the chaos, hearing people screaming and pushing to get to the exits.

I remember sliding down the airplane safety slide. I thought it was fun.

I was 5, and it was my first trip to Greece. The Olympic Airlines jumbo jet blew a tire during take off. We circled around JFK airport and made an emergency landing. We sat crouched down, holding our knees. I remember taking a peek and looking up at my Mama. She was calm, confident that everything was going to be alright. Her faith guiding her through this unforeseen failure to depart.

I always think about my first airplane ride, when I fly. And I did this summer, as I traveled to Greece with my daughter. Our trip to Greece was a homecoming of sorts for me. I knew it was going to be an emotional journey. It was time for me to heal and reflect on my personal failure; the breakdown of my marriage and divorce.

At times, I feel society is a bit obsessed with failure. The Silicon Valley mantra of “Fail Fast, Fail Often” is one that comes to mind. I think this ideology is misleading. People celebrate everything from failing early to failing quickly to failing cheaply to failing forward — whatever that means.

 

I also feel we celebrate failure a bit too much. Our learners have become accustomed to failing and celebrating the failure. Many times a player or losing team gets a “participation prize”, a reward for failing. As educators, we constantly tell our learners to embrace it.  “Mistakes are good”, “Failure is our friend”, “Lets celebrate our failed attempts!”. 

I can’t help but wonder, should every failure be celebrated? Are we celebrating the failure or the learning and risk taking? Is there something to celebrate from my personal failure?

I thought about these questions for a long time, a few things did come to mind. While this loosening of attitudes toward failure is without a doubt valuable, we, as educators, really need to be careful that we’re not focusing on the wrong thing. Failure is not our goal. Failure is simply a common byproduct — it’s not the desired end-product. 

The only way that failure becomes useful is if you reflect on it, learn from it. We should be celebrating this learning and risk taking, not the actual failure itself. And yes, there is much to learn from our failed attempts. Most of the learning from our defeat helps us to feel better about being defeated. Coming to terms with it provides us with a coping mechanism for an experience that is naturally and excruciatingly unpleasant.  Accepting it gives us the hope that we can live to see another day; it transforms a loss into a gain, and it increases our resilience as we imagine the possibilities of the future.

As I reflect back on my first plane ride, I can remember the thunderous sound of the plane skidding on the pavement and the smell of fumes. When it finally came to a complete halt, passengers began to clap, whistle and cheer. Were they celebrating the failure of departing? No. They were celebrating the experience of our pilot, the lessons he learned in landing a plane full of passengers. Even in all the chaos, the fear, and the failure of us reaching our destination, I guess there was STILL something to celebrate.

Celebrate Everyday Moments

 

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As I prepare for our New Years Eve festivities, I cant help but reflect on 2016.  My “one word” last year was …more. I was hoping for “more” in different aspects of my life; more travels, more learning,  more advancement, more family time. This year, once again, I am reading my PLN’s fabulous blog posts about their one word. I’m hoping for a word that I can blog about and embrace throughout the year. I don’t want a “one and done” type of post. I want something that I can write about and revisit time and time again. I want to live it, breathe it, be inspired….every day.

This holiday break, I find myself thinking about my learners a lot. I miss them tremendously. I miss hearing Maia’s stories, Aidyn’s silly jokes, Sarah’s thorough explanation of concepts and I miss talking Eagles football with Nye.  I think about the learning that happens in our live lesson room. Everyday my learners bring it. Some learners come to me excited, happy to absorb new discoveries. Some learners come to me in the most extreme circumstances. They may be homeless, hungry,and in troubled times. And yet, these learners come, try and give it their all. I like to think of learning as a wonderful celebration. My learners and I celebrate our writing and blog posts each month by dancing to Celebrate by Kool and the Gang.  Shout outs are given for their math fact accomplishments on Reflex math, we give props and kudos for their JGB projects, and I send them reading certificates for their achievements. But, as I write, I realize that we’re only celebrating their successes.  Would my learners accept their failures better if we acknowledge and, in a way, celebrate them too?

I also miss the team of teachers and colleagues I work with. There are many wonderful and talented professionals I come in contact with everyday. They push and challenge me to do and be my best. I often think about the challenges they work through and the risks they are hesitant to take, but do. When I close my laptop for the day, I still see them…logged on and working into the night. I’m sad to say, I’ve missed opportunities to celebrate them and their hard work. Often times we acknowledge their work and success after the fact. Why don’t we celebrate our colleagues and acknowledge their work more often?

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

-Dr. Seuss

Our lives are filled with millions of simple moments, everyday occurrences that we won’t remember tomorrow. We get through each day while looking forward to and focusing on the big moments: family vacations, friends’ weddings, the arrival of children and promotions. These milestone celebrations are indeed fabulous, but then we turn back to our normal, everyday lives.We all have celebrated moments that are unforgettable.  We freeze special times and make sure we will never forget a treasured experience.

Administrators may hold off until the end of the year to praise teachers on a job well done. Most teachers will celebrate big moments in their classroom from time to time.  Who says that celebrations should only be limited to one day? Who says celebrations should be limited to certain milestones or successes? What if we celebrated a small speck of magic in those everyday moments?

you-have-365-to-celebrate

There are opportunities to celebrate the wonderful little things in our life and in our classrooms, all the time. Sometimes the big things wouldn’t have happened without the accumulation of smaller events along the way. Taking time to celebrate the little things is an opportunity to create strong bonds and relationships; not to mention lasting memories. Acknowledging and celebrating the good, the bad and even the ugly (yes, celebrate the ugly!) helps to make others feel valued, accepted and loved. It may also provide a great model for turning a negative event, an error or mistake, into a positive learning experience. Years into the future, you may not remember the exact reasons for all your small celebrations, but others will remember the joy and ease of being a member of your class or learning network.

 

Don’t wait for a special moment or milestone; celebrate the magic you see in everyday moments. My one word for 2017 is Celebrate.

How will you celebrate everyday moments with your learners and colleagues?