Growing up in Illinois in the 90s, I idolized Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, considered by many to be the greatest NBA player ever. In this 30-second commercial, he lists all his competitive failures and then attributes them to his overall success.
Professors also encounter failures that guide us toward success. When a teaching technique fails miserably or a manuscript get rejected, we reflect on the feedback, learn from the experience, and improve our follow-up performance. This is a skill we should teach our students.
Too often, students hide their mistakes, keep quiet if they’re unsure of the answer, and feel ashamed for getting test questions wrong. But there are benefits to making mistakes in college. To F.A.I.L. is to make the First Attempt In Learning. Failure is a victory in disguise. As long as learning and growth occurs for students, failure can be celebrated. As this article about failure in higher ed states, “failure is success’s constant companion.”
Faculty have the power to reframe the perception of failure from a negative, and often emotionally distressing, event to a celebration of learning. We can leverage failures (both our own and those of our students) to teach persistence, patience, and resiliency.