ReInspired to Fail

In Professional Growth by rafranzdavis15 Comments

After hearing Diana Laufenberg speak about failure being instructional, I was completely inspired by that idea and wrote a blog posting about it. Unfortunately, that post no longer exist. During a conversation at ISTE, I allowed myself to be intimidated by the passion of George Couros and his postion on failure.  George believes that the word “fail” needs to be removed from the educational jargon. He is so passionate about it that his face turns entirely red when he speaks and you just feel what he means. He’s believable and intimidating. My failure in this conversation was allowing my beliefs to be silenced on the basis of a word and a blog posting that he never even read. Then again, failure IS instructional which is why I can finally respond with what I learned from my failure of standing up for what my beliefs are. 

In a nutshell, George Couros told me that in lieu of failure, we should just focus on learning. We shouldn’t say that failure is okay because it is not okay for a student to fail a class. After telling him that I do whatever is necessary to help students avoid failure, he kindly reminded me that I must not really believe that failure is okay because I’m in fact NOT allowing my students to fail, yet I say that I encourage failure. George made a valid point in saying that failure gives the impression of being the end, an end without recovery. He believes that when one changes course and tries something new, it is in fact NOT a failure but something else entirely. In that moment, I was at such a loss of words, that in lieu of standing my ground, I hit delete and the conversation ended at that. This was not just a failure on my part, but an Epic Fail…one that was clearly Instructional.

Failure is a deeply personal idea. No one sets out to fail, but it happens. As a high school teacher, I’ve seen dozens of kids drop out of school because of their inability to rise above failure. We’ve walked by adults everyday during this conference who at one point probably had jobs, families and homes yet some circumstance, which they have yet to rise from, leaves them living on the streets. I can’t think of a single invention that worked on the first try.  There was failure and a lot of it. Failure, by definition, means lack of success. The word itself is in fact finite. However, from failure, there can be perseverance and that is where the learning comes from. Perseverance is not natural but a behavior which can only be learned from failure. We have to teach that and heck we still have to learn it ourselves. We choose to allow the finiteness of failure. Having the strength to persevere in spite of failing stems from understanding that there are other paths if we are willing to try.

When I say that I am “Inspired to Fail”, I’m saying that I am motivated to try new ideas and take risk knowing that failure can happen. I do it with the understanding that my failure is not an end but a lesson in what NOT to do as I dust off and start over. Knowing what to do when failure happens is an important lesson and must never be removed from education.

I would love to hear more thoughts on the idea of failure. Please feel free to comment and join the conversation.




  1. I think this is an absolutely fantastic post and I know exactly what you are talking about when you reference failure. I also know that so many teachers do not accept their kids “failing” and that they work their butt off (teacher and student) to ensure that they are successful. That hard work and dedication to learning , even when it is not easy or linear, as well as working with our students so that they develop resilience when learning on their own is a much more important narrative to be sharing with others.

    You have been one of the most amazing people that I have met at #ISTE13 and I look forward to keeping up our connection! Thanks for writing this 🙂

  2. Love your post! I am not always willing to take risk but now you have inspired me to step out knowing that it will be ok.

    1. Author

      That literally just made me tear up. Please take risk. Trust me, it will be ok! I believe that with all of my being.

  3. Rafranz, once again you amaze me with your astute grasp of it all! I am so glad I met you at the SEE Summit and continue to be blessed to consider you part of my PLN!

    1. Author

      That made my night! I am blessed to be connected to all of you. You challenge me to grow, to try, to fail and to improve. I am honored to be in your PLN.

  4. Excellent piece. Kids need to know what it is to fail, how to identify what went wrong, how to adjust based on the analysis and to try again. Failure is not the end. It is just not the right way.

  5. Very inspiring Rafranz, and we should all remember that the first ingredient in the recipe for success is failure.

  6. Pingback: Resiliency and Grit, Not Failure | The Principal of Change

  7. I am really enjoying your bIog!

    I work with students with disabilities, if fail was a word I adopted then I don’t think I could get up in the morning. Sometimes I have to try and find solutions to help a student learn that require me to think so far outside the box that I can’t even see the edges anymore!
    Challenge is where I sit everyday and building resilience in students to continue and focus on the purpose then celebrate their endurance is my business.
    I have followed the work of Carol Dweck for so long it feels like “growth mindset” is like a pair of well worn shoes. I write about it here in regards to engaging students rather than entertaining them.

    Thanks for sharing, keep op the great writing 🙂

    1. Author

      That makes so much sense to me. My thoughts on failure are on the act itself in terms of not achieving a desired outcome. I do not allow the word in my class and I stand by that. However, I do encourage students to try something new and take life risks towards a goal. I’m still struggling with “eliminating” the word entirely but I am encouraged by idea that I can purpose it in other areas where it does apply. We focus on resilience but we must also be mindful of the fact that kids do need to know when what they were trying to accomplish didn’t work and how to decide what happens next. I’ve enjoyed your blog too. Thank you so much for sharing your words!

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