Reflecting on a Crucial Part of Growth: Failure

I wrote the following blogpost right at the end of career study after proposing yet another lesson plan that was confusing and did not meet all of the objectives of what my career study teacher needed to be taught.

As we are nearing the end of this school year and the formal “in school” end of this project, I can’t help but reflect back on this project and see a lot of failure. I knew this project would not be a sailboat in a currentless ocean, floating along until it reached it’s journey’s prescribed end. I realized that it would be difficult and messy, as learning inherently is. I’ve been excited about what I’ve learned and what I’ve learned with teachers and students and the conversations I’ve been able to help spark. But I also sometimes feel like I’ve have fallen far from where I was aiming to hit.

I think sometimes I kept dreaming that somehow with this one tiny little project that we would be able to make significant improvements, growth, and change. So much so that it took me until halfway into the school year to realize that despite the feedback we got in late summer about our project being too colossal and the need to define it a little more that I didn’t truly take heed of that advice until midway through the school year. Now on career study and trying to test out our prototype, I realize that I was still not taking that advice. Without me realizing, my brain still wanted to try to do the impossible and create some sort of systemic change. But this idea ignores the complexity of teaching, of humans, of learners. It ignores what others are trying to do and what they are doing.

As I have tried to figure out how to incorporate our prototype into lesson plans, my plans and my revisions of those plans always seem to have holes and never seem to meet what the teacher needs. Reflecting back on this and the whole project, I can’t help but think “how can one person fail so much?”.

When I see the achievements of my peers and the incredible things I see other students do, sometimes I can’t help but feel as though I haven’t made or achieved anything that has been worth sharing. Despite falling off the boat and wading through seas of failure many times throughout this project, I have emerged with some advice for future projects.


  • Always start early. Even when you think you have time or if you don’t have any idea where to start, just get started. You will make some progress, even if it’s just getting a better understanding of what you are doing or what you want to do. Even that will be a big step and invaluable start. Mr. Heidt recently reminded us of the advice from IDEO of “Don’t get ready, get started”. If you just take a risk and start, you’ll always have progressed more and be better off than if you hadn’t taken that first step. I’ve learned that it always benefits to start early because then you will have time to make revisions or additions to your idea, product, or production. You will always come to your finished product and think “This could be changed here…” or “Wouldn’t it be super cool if we could do this?”. You will thank your future self for leaving you time to revise and add more to your idea.


  • Don’t be afraid to take on your project in smaller, controlled steps. Your initial idea may seem daunting or overwhelming, but know that it’s always good (and often the only way and almost always the wisest way) to chase your project and make your ideas into a reality. This goes along with always remembering to follow the practice of continually trying. If you continually try and take small steps everyday, you will have made far more progress than if you hadn’t taken those small steps.


  • Don’t be afraid to continually and regularly ask for advice. Sometimes you may come across problems and may think that with some time you can solve them on your own. But, usually these problems can be more quickly resolved with a little bit of guidance. Of course, you may need to work through some problems on your own, but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Sometimes I would be afraid to discuss difficulties I was having because I felt embarrassed about my confusion or felt like I needed to be farther than I was. Having the courage to just seek a little guidance will almost always keep you on the right track. Every time I did seek guidance, I always wished I had sought it sooner.


  • Even when it seems as though there are no solutions, don’t give up. You’ve sailed this far, keep sailing. Try to work out your problem. Your project will likely be much more rewarding if you see it through to the end. Know that your end product may not work out as planned and that’s okay. You will still have had valuable experiences. Sometimes the most growth happens when you feel the most stuck or confused.


After visiting this blog post again, I am really happy that I finished this project to the end. I would have missed out on so many learning experiences and growth that occurred within the span of just two days. I would never have known how other learners felt about and interacted with the curiosity boxes.  At this point, I didn’t think I had time or would have a plan to be able to actually test out the prototype. But, after taking my own advice and seeking some advice from my career study teacher, I came up with a lesson that covered the objectives and used the curiosity box to give students the freedom to  create the route to meet those objectives. It’s good to remember that you will always have moments where you feel overwhelming failure or disappointment. But everyone does and it would be unnatural (and actually, in a weird way, not fun considering all good stories have conflict the characters learn from) to not experience failure. It’s a crucial part of growth.


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