Every summer we go to Lake Almanor, three moms and four boys. It is the only time these boys see each other during the year. Today as I was standing in the lake I watched the boys figure out how to all stand on the tube/float. I observed the many failed attempts where all would end up in the water only to get back on and try again.
My educator eyes are always fascinated by the process folks use to solve a problem or problems. These boys were fighting the laws of physics by actively challenging them. While observing I noticed that the boys never stopped to discuss and plan, they just started climbing back on and figuring out what had to be done so that in the end they would all be standing. I heard so much discussion and problem solving as they were in the process of standing. They were focused, thinking critically and never was there a moment or thought of giving up until they had succeeded. Each failed attempt taught them how not to do it and allowed them to try something new.
There were too many failed attempts to count with only one eventual success and then it was on to the next challenge of the day... Lunch!
They boys were having a wonderful time and each time they failed they laughed and were rewarded by a soaking. Think how different this would have gone down if the moms had told them to do this without getting wet (or failing). One little thing can change the entire scenario and if we had done that the boys would have not even tried. Their willingness to attempt and be creative in their solution would be sacrificed. No action rather than failure.
I often have Yoda's quote posted in my classroom "There is no try, do or do not." I think that if students set their goals to "doing" then they can still have many "trials and failures" which is a part of the "doing" process. But if we add parameters that lead to choosing not to "do" we are robbing our students of the very process we want to encourage.
How do we prove to students that we truly want them to learn from failed attempts in our content area courses? Now this gets me thinking about grading and a whole other can of worms...