Stereotypes About Failure
An early elementary school education that emphasizes teamwork and persistence, through conceptual learning and practical problem solving.
We meet children who do not get good grades, who are tardy, who are hard on themselves. Every team member has important work to do.
We meet parents who get angry when their child fails a test. We need to find strategies to take away the emotion and turn it into productivity and time management.
At our staff meeting, the teacher announces a new initiative. “We will now teach first grade students through role play, and separate each child according to their level of readiness, rather than making them join together into a group,” the teacher says.
I am not surprised that many parents and educators saw this as a negative, because with this approach, they think failure is an inevitable part of life. And when children step in their own way, they are labeled a failure.
The teacher is forced to explain the history behind the teaching model and answer questions about why students that are considered ready should not be grouped together. Then, she introduces lessons about self-discipline, perseverance, confidence, and self-reliance. These lessons focus on building the stamina and confidence of the students who need it most. We are, after all, educators. We have a huge responsibility in engaging our students in discussion about global issues.
Our discussions have moved away from bullying and do not come in the form of a video played over and over. Instead, the children are allowed to ask questions like “What do we want to do?” and “What’s the common theme in the movie?” The emphasis becomes much more personal.
In science class, children are required to work together in a group to build a wheel. The group moves one at a time, while the teacher suggests a short speech and a study assignment. The stories that children tell help us construct the wheel’s center, or “Cajun.” When the wheel is finished, the adults in the room take turns lifting the wheel over their heads and saying “Cajun.” Finally, the children get to find out if the wheel is Cajun or not.
When I see this educational program, I know that my children will have an advantage in the world, as we have a shared goals, a shared vision, and they will learn many skills that are not taught in a linear way. Many children can be embarrassed if they are forced to learn through methods such as group discussion, when they may not be ready to understand what is going on. In addition, it is hard to be influenced by other teachers, friends, and even parents if you were not raised in a nurturing environment. This model allows teachers and parents to work together, and adults can give advice that helps the children understand what they are doing.
Our students say that the project this year is one of the best ones they have ever done. They are surprised to find out that they will go on a field trip to the LEGO building museum in Connecticut when they reach second grade. They are very excited about it because they are not required to take a field trip. This gives them all the incentive they need to work together to succeed.