Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The BIG Question: Failure

As I have said before, this year we are using some of our morning time to incorporate community building through a BIG Question. This BIG Question is often related to some theme we see in the middle school and allows us to have a conversation around it in a safe and comfortable environment.

Typically, the Student Support Team will identify the theme or topic, I will present some data, a video, a podcast, a narrative, etc. that illustrates some aspect of that theme and then leave the group with a question to discuss in their advisories. The goal of the program is threefold:
  1. Create a forum for the whole division to meet,
  2. Introduce BIG ideas, current events, and/or school issues that warrant a common context for discussion, and
  3. Provide an opportunity for common reflection during our Middle School Chapel one week later. 
As you may have seen from my post titled The BIG Question, our first topic was Honor, as we found ourselves discussing the Honor Code and its implications on how we live our lives at Canterbury and beyond.

Last week's topic was failure. We have been witnessing an increased fear of failure in schools which can lead to students becoming highly stressed. Last year we watched the Race to Nowhere (and see below), which chronicles the extremes of what can be our children's over-scheduled and highly pressurized lives. More and more students have very little idea how to deal with failure. They often refuse to try because they risk failure.

Our BIG Question addresses this issue head-on by asking:

How does failure define you?

We watched a clip of Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 in which he describes being fired from the company he created and coming back to become CEO. We then broke off into our advisories and discussed the BIG Question together in the context of our own lives. Finally, Fr. Finnin will wrap up the conversation during his sermon at the Middle School Chapel tomorrow morning.

I think it is worth noting that we at Canterbury have taken a position on how believe students should view failure. It is clearly stated in the final skill for our Portfolio Program:

  1. Respond to an experience of failure in a way that acknowledges that innovation involves small successes and frequent mistakes.
We want our students to acknowledge that they will fail many times in their lives, and that the key to growth is learning from those mistakes and moving forward. We want our students to engage in life.

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