Teaching failure

We have all heard by now that failure is a great teacher. Once parents and students accept this, grades will reflect growth, not judgment; God will be in His heaven and all will be right with the world.


The one component I “failed” to account for was the necessity of failure to my own learning curve. To what degree have I acknowledged failure as my own teacher?


Here is what failure is teaching me this year:

Students brought typewriters to self-started creative writing group.

Students brought typewriters to self-started creative writing group.

I am prepared for everything except the next thirty seconds.

It never works twice.

My most brilliant students will miss The Second Coming if it occurs in print.

I keep forgetting that classics must be read aloud and with enthusiastic slowness.

Students can do fine without me; students cannot do fine without me: I will never know which day one of these statements is true – I will always guess  incorrectly.

Why Tweet when you can Type?

There is still no point in commenting in writing on a student’s paper.

No amount of literature or dialogue will widen a narrow mind.


Now, I am not discouraged by any of this. Perhaps my new-found wisdom will help me to make New Year’s resolutions to be a better teacher. mainly it serves to remind me that whatever I thought they were learning today, they actually learned something else. The very unpredictability of teaching, the Michael Crichton factor of chaos theory (substitute this week’s aluminium foil Mechanical Hound for T-Rex) is what brings me back engaged daily.

In the vain laughter of folly wisdom hears half its applause.
George Eliot

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/georgeelio148905.html#4UYvxHo1eVuTG8mK.99




4 Responses to “Teaching failure”

  1. 1 Sara Zarr
    December 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Gordon – This may be my new favorite post of yours. And I know that your willingness to “fail” and to empower and to listen and to acknowledge frustration is one of the many things that makes you a gift to your students.

  2. 3 Susan Berrend
    December 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Bravo! Your list IS the reality of teaching!

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