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Friday, May 2, 2008

Just Think About It: Reaching for Success or Accepting Failure?

Instead of discussing strategies for student success, I would like to take another approach. My approach may be a little controversial perhaps, but I ask that you bare with me until the end.

Pretend for a minute that you "want to fail" a course. I know that you are sitting there thinking, "I don't want to fail, so why does she want me to think about something I don't want to do." However, if you are a student and you find yourself doing the following things, then I am sorry but you are possibly on the road to failure and you may not even know it. Therefore, instead of letting you fail without warning or notice, I have chosen to provide you with a list that I believe will at least allow you to analyze your specific situation. I can't save you although I wish I could, but you can save yourself.

  1. You have accepted failure as an option if you do not take notes in class and ask questions. Unless you are an auditory learner and you are able to "record" the teacher's lectures or discussions in your brain, then how are you going to review, practice and study for exams?
  2. You have accepted failure as an option if you do not study your notes during the term. Unless you have "photocopied" the teacher's lectures, notes, discussions and rules in your brain, how are you going to remember what you reviewed at the beginning of the term when weeks go by and it's the end of the term? Your semester can be 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 10, 12 or 16 weeks. Can you remember what you had for dinner last Friday? I can't.
  3. You have accepted failure as an option if you do not attend class unless you are a "super brain" and have nothing left to learn because you "know everything" to pass exams, the course and earn a degree. I must admit there are some super brains out there, those prodigies with superhuman abilities that no one can really understand. However, even these super brains continue their learning because ultimately every human being learns something until he or she takes that last breath.
  4. You have accepted failure as an option if you do not complete your homework assignments. If you already learned all the material in class and recorded every detail in your photographic memory, then doing homework could be a waste. Why do homework? Not for the sake of doing something, turning it in and making your teacher happy. Homework serves as a review and practice so that you can remember what you need to remember so you can pass exams and complete assignments so you can then receive a satisfactory grade that will provide you with that degree of your dreams. You do not "do" homework for the teacher; you do homework for yourself.
  5. You have accepted failure as an option if you do not submit an assignment on the due date. Failing to receive another A or B may at first appear insignificant, but realize that the lower your grade point average, the least likely you are to receive scholarships, be admitted to specific colleges and universities and eventually limit your opportunities to obtain that "dream" job because the candidate sitting next to you in the waiting room has a much more impressive resume and college transcript.
  6. You have accepted failure as an option if you do not set aside a few hours everyday to review notes and assignments because attending class provides you with all you to need to ace any test or assignment. Sitting in a class does not equal attending a class, participating in a class and successfully completing a class. Sitting there means you just "sat" there.
  7. You have accepted failure as an option if you do not bother the teacher with a million questions after class when you know you are confused and lost. When you worry about your success or your failure, when you show interest and concern, I listen and try to help, but I cannot help someone who I think "knows everything."
  8. You have accepted failure as an option if you do not participate in class because you are too scared that your classmates know "everything" and "only you" are lost and confused. Trust me you are not alone; I am at the front of the class watching all of you and I "know" lots of students are confused and lost, but only one or two are brave enough to admit it, raise their hand and ask. Be different; be courageous. Help the other students as you help yourself.
I don't want you to fail; I want you to succeed. What do you want for yourself?


  1. Hey, with 2 kids in college this is great advice. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Greetings friend! I apprecicate all the kind words you have said thus far about me blogging. You're a very supportive person. I do like your perspective of looking at success versus failure in a completely different way.

    The pointers you have mentioned are some of the concepts and things that I have gone through this Spring 08 semester and the entire year. I blieve that we are easily able to accept failure rather than success.

  3. Namaste' fearless! the more we do anything either good for us or not so good, we reinforce the belief/action via the doing, or not doing.

    I dont know how many times in school I was simply too *painfully* shy of a person to put my hand up in class, as I did not want to call that *kind of attention* to myself, I didn't want people looking at me and staring, but I did not think to myself maybe there were others that were just as scared.

    So I sucked up going in for extra class work after hours with the teacher instead, rather than have that courage.

    I had to find my own voice over time, and courage through the times I did fall down, but it was never failing, it was simply learning. Noone else can save us, tis very true.


  4. This is an inspiring post. It's interesting to note that we humans can learn equally as well from failures as we can from successes. Truth be told, there is never a point in time when we cannot make the decision to turn things around.

  5. Thank you all for your supportive comments.

    I worried that my words would be misunderstood as judgmental or negative. That was not my intention. I think as teachers we sometimes remain silent way too many times. Instead of speaking the truth, what we think and what we feel, we remain silent in fear of how others may view our intentions. When I see students fail an exam or a course, I feel physically sick and my heart hurts. Sometimes, I am in more pain than my students. I wonder what I could have done better or different "to save" the students, but then realize I could only meet them half way. They have to travel the rest of the way alone. So, if anything I hope this post alerts those who will listen. If not, as my friend Sky points out, that is fine too in the end. I know I have learned great things from my successes, but my failures have taught me even more.

  6. An interesting look at how the choices we make affect our own success or failure. A good post.

  7. No missunderstanding your words here. I heard them through and through. I have an almost 16yr old child in highschool who I try to get to see this point daily. He is VERY intellegent( and I am not just saying that because I am his mom (grin)) but struggles in school if the subject doesn't hold his attention. I describe it as, he already thinks he knows it, so why put in the effort. when I get his grade sheet and show him how he is failing..grades go A,B,A,A F, F,0,0,0,C A B... stubborness.. Just hope that he figures it out as he grows.
    Now you words don't only work for "School" but can and should be used for life in general as well.. thanks for sharing


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