What? Embracing Failure?

A not-so-novel idea for building a growth mindset

I saw this video over at edutopia.org, and it made a lot of sense. Imagine a world where students welcome — even seek out — tough critical feedback. No place for snowflakes in this program. The New Mexico School for the Arts trains students from the outset to expect failure, but to use it for personal growth. It’s okay to make mistakes. Encouraging this mindset allows students to accept constructive criticism and make improvements based on the feedback.

This is the essence of the growth mindset. At NMSA, students are taught that they can improve their abilities with effort. Just like playing an instrument, math ability is an acquired skill. Expect mistakes, especially if you are participating in a tough class. Criticism is tough to hear. For this reason, many students simply opt not to try without an iron-clad guarantee of instant success.

According to Dr. Carol Dweck, training this growth mindset should begin at a young age. Children being taught that mistakes are not only allowed, but should be anticipated, is contrarian in public schools. Most schools teach — perhaps unwittingly — that mistakes are bad. Cheating in secondary and post-secondary institutions runs rampant when this is the case.

As an entrepreneur, I have made a fair number of mistakes with business start-ups and failures, but I learned critical distinctions each time. As a husband, I have made miscommunications. As parents, my wife and I are certainly not batting 1.000.

Segue into parenting… Education starts in the home. The apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree, so when I encounter classroom issues, I keep in mind that students are a product of those they spend the most time with — their parents. Or worse, absentee parents! So parents, I encourage you to learn all you can about a growth mindset. Fostering growth mindset from the start may even pre-empt many a meltdown during adolescence.

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