High Stakes Failing?

What has really been bothering me lately is the idea of allowing our students to fail. In class, we have been talking about how we should accept the fact that we are going to fail as teachers every once in a while. That is still a kind of upsetting thought because I do not like the idea of failing my students but I have come to accept that I am not going to be perfect right out of the gate.

And yet, I recently read something about how learning entails failure. If that is the case, why is there high-stakes testing? High-stakes allows absolutely no room for failure. None. You fail and suddenly, you do not know anything. And all the progress you made, the failures you overcame throughout the year . . . all of that means nothing. That in and of itself is an:

I would like to think that if a student progressed so much during a school year that it would reflect on their standardized tests. However, I do not believe that that is the case. I know I have failed many times through my life of learning. I could have been any of these people in the pictures below.

Even if I may or may not have been in some of these situations (99% sure I am the last one), here I am at college. I have made it this far.

I think students get so worried about being perfect and getting everything right the first time, they forget that it is okay to make mistakes. The mistakes that they make can help them see just how far they can come. Mastering a subject, a topic, or a concept that was previously challenging and which resulted in multiple failures is so satisfying when you finally get the point. That is what I am most excited about as a teacher: to see the light in a student’s eyes when something finally clicks. Or when they finally understand something and end up really enjoying it (like reading or writing). Basically, I will be telling my students that failure is acceptable. And when they have to take those standardized tests, I will try to put the least amount of stress on them as possible and just tell them to do the best they can. Because really, I do not want to be the one to put any more stress on them than they already get.

Anyway, maybe I will just tell my students this definition of failure:

And to show this famous quote:

I sure love failing. Because succeeding afterwards is the greatest feeling in the world.

🙂

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3 thoughts on “High Stakes Failing?

  1. Interesting thoughts, Heather. I find that my college students often don’t want to play or explore or take risks in their learning, and I think much of that must have to do with high-stakes testing. If we make everything in our classrooms about tests, what message are we sending our students about learning?

    • I think if everything is about tests in the classroom, then students will start to hate learning. What is the point of learning a bunch of stuff and then getting tested. Most students forget directly afterwards (like me). I wish I was allowed to make more mistakes instead of trying to be perfect all the time because no one is perfect.

  2. Another wonderful post! I’m still jealous of your pictures and creativity. I loved how you made the point of success after failure. Success doesn’t come without mistakes and without challenges. We have to provide a chance to succeed to our students; teach them the tools to “survive” the high-stakes testing. More importantly, we need to teach our students to enjoy learning. High-stakes testing definitely makes that a challenge (but that is where we as teachers find success).

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