Image borrowed from Chaoscomedy.com
Nobody likes failure. But in the world of student affairs, and in the “real” world in general, it’s a fact of life that we need to engage, appreciate, and learn from. It’s imperative that we work to create well-rounded, holistically educated citizens, part of which, is failing. So what is our role then when it comes to helping our students to embrace their failures, and the lesson’s learned from them? Intentionally integrating failure!
Don’t get me wrong. We shouldn’t push our students to fail, rather, we should let them stumble and fail from time to time. As role models, we need to learn to hold ourselves back from holding their hands every time a fail is on the horizon, but actually increase our presence post-fail to help them utilize the experience for developmental value. Assessing situations with them, letting them take the lessons learned forth into a repeat program, or even just offering up a level of expertise to help them understand what could have been done (and thus can be done in the future) to better ensure success. We need to provide these support elements to make it obvious that failure isn’t something to fear; it’s a tool for us to learn from. Understanding that encountering an epic fail has more value than succeeding in a mediocre, bland toast way.
The fact of the matter is, failure helps student’s brains become more flexible to adversity. It engages portions of the brain that need to be plastic as one moves through the developmental stages of life. Those who are highly successful in the world, have regularly experienced more failure than those who have had all of their potential failures prevented. So as you work with your students, encourage them to take on challenges that have the potential to fall through. Let them take the lead on projects that might lead to a discouraging result. Above all else though, when that fail hits the fan, be there, support them, engage that teachable moment, and be their fail safe, so that they can safely and comfortably fail successfully in their future.