Teaching Grit

Our state tests begin this week. The only thing less important is discussing whether some celebrity has had plastic surgery.

My students have better things to learn than how to be right the first time they fill in a bubble.

So I will leave it at that. Hmph.

I’d like to say that we build a culture of success in my classroom. That statement sounds like something that would look good when an administrator checks off little boxes about me.  I'd like to say that. But the truth is...we pay much regard to failure in my class.

In fact, we build a culture of failure in my classroom... (Hmmm...There definitely isn't a little box about that.)

What I mean is that from the beginning of the year, I ensure that each of my students feels comfortable sharing their successes AND their failures. I show them this
Although I would like to say we build a culture of success in my classroom, we actually pay much regard to failure. Read this and find out why.

And I tell them this
Although I would like to say we build a culture of success in my classroom, we actually pay much regard to failure. Read this and find out why.

Most of all, I show them how to fail like a champ and be okay with it. I do that by failing. A lot. In public.

I might write something on the board and turn to the class wrinkling up my nose. Does this sound okay? Do you understand these instructions? 

Some kids will nod and say yes because the teacher is always right. Others won’t say anything because they think what I wrote is demented, but they are too polite to say so.

I can usually count on at least one kid to admit that no, it doesn't sound okay. It's terribly unclear. In fact, it's truly asinine. 

My champion!

Help me out here, I’ll plead, wringing my hands. How can I write this so you’ll understand?

And so we revise.

Thank you sooooo much, I’ll say. I don’t know why my brain refused to work. Sometimes that happens to me. But you are my heroes!

If I do this a few times, it becomes okay to fail. In public.

Other times I’ll flip the classroom. This version of flipping involves asking for someone who thinks they did something poorly to share their crummy work. At first the kids look at me like I’m crazy.

This last part actually happens frequently. ;) 

I say that the people who volunteer information when they think it is wrong are the bravest in the world. I call them my heroes too. For they are the people who help us all learn a better way of doing things. We only learn to stand after falling down. A lot. In public, even.

Heroes, please help us improve, I’ll plead as I wave my arms with a flourish.

Kids are comfortable being heroes in my room. We build a culture in which failure doesn't make us failures

And admitting we're not perfect, provides us with opportunities to learn.

We fail. We learn. We fail better next time.

Thank you to Room 213 for hosting this blog hop on What Matters Most.


  1. Darlene your blog posts always make me smile... and this post doesn't fail to deliver a smile to my face either. I think you're teaching and modeling such great lessons to your kids - they are lucky to have you as their teacher.


  2. I LOVE this, Darlene! Failure means we are trying, right? Simple and brilliant!

  3. You remind me of Mrs. Becker, my Junior English teacher. She was the first to give ma e B on a creative writing assignment. I'd already been published before entering her class, and I thought I was the QUEEN of writing! She corrected me (easily) with plenty of red ink, helping me learn that failure equals editing to make it better. I'm so thankful to Mrs. Becker and the many lessons I learned in her class!

  4. I echo what Addie said--you sound like an amazing teacher. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Darlene...I know one thing that you didn't fail at...writing an amazing and inspiring post! Nicely done!

  6. This is going at the top of my list of how to start next year off - "Kids are comfortable being heroes in my room.We build a culture in which failure doesn't make us failures."

    Mrs. Spangler in the Middle