My path forward includes failure

Most of my focus as an educational leader is on what happens in our public schools. It is important for leaders like myself to notice the shift that Collins and Halverson (2009) describe; education and learning are taking place more frequently in spheres other than behind the walls of our public schools. Many students are moving to private schools, home school settings, online environments, and private learning centers (like Kaplan and Sylvan). Public education can stay relevant and effective by using the power of technology to customize what students learn (through assessment and instruction), and to also increase the engagement level learning. Technology can also be an aid to expanding learning because it is able to overcome traditional barriers such as time and location.

More than just remaining relevant, my path forward as a school leader is to enable, encourage, and provoke the type of deep and dynamic learning in my staff that I’d like to see for my students. For too long, educators (leaders and teachers) have been cautious in how we go about the task of educating students. We carefully plod along a scripted path, making small adjustments to plans that were thought to be ideal for generations of the past. We seem to keep trying to perfect a system that is no longer relevant, and this isn’t going to cut it anymore. I don’t think it is possible for us to tweak our way to greatness.

As leaders, we need to work to establish an environment of experimentation for teachers and students. We should set challenging outcome goals for ourselves and for our students, and then encourage and expect creative and innovative thinking to find solutions that will help meet those goals. We also need to change our fear of failure, because valuable learning lessons can come from that failure. Failure that comes from well-intended effort should be appreciated and praised. As Dave Guymon writes, “If you can’t fail, it doesn’t count.”

Collins, A. and Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology: The digital revolution and schooling in America. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

2 thoughts on “My path forward includes failure

  1. What a timely post, Curt! Innovation to a large extent exposes us all to failure, and if we are hesitant to innovate for fear of failure, we just won’t make progress. As I look back on my career in education, many of the instances of failure were such learning experiences that the failures actually laid the groundwork for subsequent successful execution.

  2. Brad – Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment. It seems like we are trying to tweak our way to greatness in education. We want our kids to be creative and innovative, but we don’t seem to give that same license to our teachers. As administrators we need to do better. As Rushton Hurley has shared, we need to give permission to innovate wildly.

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