Finding the Success in Failure


Like many high school teachers across Ontario, I’m presently navigating the turbulent seas of culminating activities and final exams. This is an incredibly stressful time of year for students. As students thrive for the best mark possible, I often ask them to also reflect on the journey.

The journey does matter.

As a teacher, it’s easy to pass judgment on students’ lack of readiness for this time of year.  However, I choose to reflect on my own experience in high school (at a time when we still had OAC – that extra year to mature) and I can truthfully assert that I may not have had the same resilience that I expect of my Gr. 10 – 12 students. As such, its important for me to remember my own journey when working with my students. I was by no means the A+ plus student with  perfect work habits or a master of learning skills. I grew into a responsible learner with time, practice and when the stakes were high – paying for post-secondary tuition.

As such, as my students work on their final short films, I have encountered a group of learners who will not successfully finish their project. Rather than contributing further to their shared sense defeat, I promised myself to help them find success within the “failure.” Yes, they will fail in achieving academic success with the project but there is opportunity to find success as a self-regulated learner.

Inspired by my current Masters of Education course, I will be giving these students a revised project; one grounded in an exploration of who they are as learners. This doesn’t take away from the fact that have not fulfilled particular course criteria but speaks to the need to shape deep learning that is transferable. As such, these students will complete a self-regulation self assessment looking at : initiative, collaboration, engagement, independence and  more.

The students in the small group, will individually reflect on their ability to self-regulate and then complete a journal looking at limitations and next steps.  Although their project was not successfully completed that doesn’t mean they are failures. There is still so much to learn.

For me, it speaks to my own need to be more cognizant of nurturing self-regulated learning practices throughout my course of study along with goal setting. This means I must provide intentional opportunities for students to establish individual goals, complete the self-regulation assessment already noted and re-visit that assessment with the intention to meet their goals. As they manage their goals, I then have an opportunity to foster self-regulation and cultural responsive teaching and learning; adapting with the students on their journey.

Specifically, in regards to next semester, each course will begin with a focus on self – not curriculum. The first week will be directly about students and establishing the journey.

This is something that I will also be doing with Gr. 9 STEAM students who I work to support in regards to the implementation of the A within STEAM. The ability to set a goal and manageable path and reflect as an effective communicator is paramount to establish and maintain high performance. Although I have already worked with STEAM students in curating and reflecting on learning tasks through portfolio design, the idea of goal-setting as an anchor to self-regulation has not yet been explored. This is of paramount importance.

Here’s looking forward to semester 2 – new beginnings and fresh starts for me and my students.

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