Tuesday, February 28, 2012

True Grit #2 - English girls' school tries a "failure week"

According to the BBC, the Wimbledon High School near London will hold a "failure week" in February to teach its high-performing students that it's better to try new things and fail at them than to play it safe and try to sidestep situations where failure is possible.

The headmistress, Heather Hanbury, said she wanted to show "it is completely acceptable and completely normal not to succeed at times in life."...

There will be workshops, assemblies, and activities for the girls, with parents and tutors joining in with tales of their own failures.

There will be YouTube clips of famous and successful people who have failed along the way and moved on.

The emphasis will be discussions on the merits of failure and on the negative side of trying too hard not to fail.

This is a perfect time to teach that learning and development are more important than 100% grades. My high school experience was prime time for the pursuit of grades rather than learning, which I find really annoying in hindsight (in other words, that was a mistake :).

The headmistress' thinking is reminiscent of the importance of "grit" - the ability to bounce back from failure promoted by the University of Pennsylvania's Angela Duckworth. I hope headmistress Hanbury lets the girls know that mistakes can open up new vistas and new opportunities, worlds of possibility, rather than the closet of "perfection or nothing."

NB: The Failure Week was held from February 6-10 and here are some of the learnings from it. My favorite quote: "We just lost in debating this week – we’ve been joking: is that what it’s about??"

If by "it" you mean developing a sense of humor around your fallibility, the answer is yes--that's what it's about.

[Hat tip to @brainology]

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