Is Failure a Cycle?

So many things I do in life I try to learn from it.  I also like to use experiences to help me empathize with others.  I guess that comes with the job. Sometimes it is hard to empathize with students when you only see them for an hour a day and you don’t know what is going on in there lives.

So for a week I have had failure after failure.  Job opportunity – did not happen, ISTE proposal – did not happen, Edublogs awards – lost, Stats class – not going well, projects kids worked on all week – not as good as I hoped. So it has been failure after failure after failure.  I am so down, no matter how bad I do not want to be. It’s Christmas for goodness sake and all I can think about is how professionally I am failing.

After the rejection of ISTE proposal I had a major self inflicted pity party. Luckily when the edublog awards were announced (even though I was so HAPPY for my friends who won & honored to be nominated) I was with a great group of friends (all of whom I met on twitter by the way)  so could focus elsewhere.  Yesterday I thought and have yet to change my mind, if I stop taking these risk, then I do not have to worry about the hurt of failure.

I still have 9 students who have not turned in their 200 point science project.  This is a record, last year I had 25 out of 93 students.  But it has been driving me crazy that they haven’t even attempted the project.  Every one of these are students already failing my class.  Students I have to almost sit on to get to do anything. Students who are SMART and can do the work.

Now I get it, if they are anything like I am right now they probably have the same attitude, why do the work, if it is just not good enough?  Why take up the time when I could be doing something I know I am good at?  It all makes sense now.  They did not do the project because the do not like me or do not like my class.  I am sure a few have different reasons, no one to help at home, etc, but I am more confident this could be the reason because with these students I am seeing it over and over.

Before I started writing this post I asked on twitter if people thought Failure was a cycle.  No one said no.  I got many replies.  One of my brilliant colleagues asked if I had ever read Carol Dweck’s  work. I had not, but of course googled her immediately.  Over and over I am seeing her information about mindset and how that determines success not how smart you are.  Think she is on to something, I will be reading more.

I think this failure thing is a cycle.  My new goal (though I hate setting goals because of failure!) is to find the best way to change these mindsets.  I know I need a positive mindset, it will come eventually.


***To those leaving comments (which is always welcome): If there is no “anti-spam” word when leaving a comment, click “change users” next to the comment box. I will show the :anti-spam” word! I do not understand why it does this.***

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Jim says:

    Been there. In fact, still there. (

    Sometimes we need to put things into perspective- try looking at what’s going well for you, whether it’s personal or professional, and focus on those.

    And, as much as failure sucks, you can’t stop trying new, different, challenging things just because of the possibility you may fail. There’s an equal possibility you’ll succeed, but without making the attempt you’ll never know.

  2. Beverly says:

    I’m with you! I had a lot of this going on earlier this year, in response to a difficult practicum placement. I struggled and finally got some help I needed, and it all got better really fast. The thing was, I kept going, and it all worked itself out!

    Just like Stephen Kaggwa said, “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.”

    New commenter, love reading your blog! Thanks for all the great info!

  3. It takes a lot of guts to admit when we fail. The only time that failure is a bad thing is when we don’t stop to think about what happened and then makes some kind of change.

    As for the ‘failures’ you mention, I, too, did not win an Edublogs award (a popularity contest IMHO) and my proposal was shot down for ISTE. As for your 9 nine students, remember that many teachers would not care about those nine and blame the students for not getting the project done, not themselves. The fact that you hold yourself responsible shows what a good teacher you are.

    This winter break, relax and take a tiny amount of time to reflect and think of one change you can make for the new year. Treat it like a new beginning!

    Thanks for your honesty 🙂

  4. I was nominated for 5 Edublog awards and didn’t win any. I am now 0 for 7. I also had two ISTE proposals turned down. The thing is, it doesn’t really bother me. You see, I learned in high school how to take failure.

    I played football on a team that earned a 32 game losing streak. I played in over 40 games from my freshman, junior varsity, and varsity teams before I played in a winning game. I didn’t play to be a winner, I played because I enjoyed football. I guess I don’t care if I “win” because I do what I enjoy and that is the reward I need.

    Besides, when I get down I have friends like you to bring me back up! 🙂

  5. Tony says:

    I know what you mean you can let alot of things get to you. The past cycle for my Juniors I gave them a great YouTube project that has them creating videos as a group to explain what Polynomials are to the world. I even set up a prize for the video that does the best on YouTube (giving them movie tickets) yet today my students come back after being in their trade for a week and a half and half of the class said they are just going to take the zero because they do not have the time to do it. These things always happen however I am always going to keep trying because I think they are interesting and I need to do something to make math class fun.

    However in the end someone told me that failure is only failure if you do not learn something from it and grow. So that is how I look at it I never fail I just didnt succeed as well as I had hoped and have room to grow and do better next time.

  6. elenired says:

    I’ve been following you on twitter for quite some time, also reading your blog. The strange thing is that I have found myself in similar situations and took courage from your positive spirit. I am a primary school teacher in Greece. I am new to ICT started a seminar last february since june. from the first moment I was thrilled and started a blog and a wiki with my class. Astonishing experience. I created a blog and a wiki for this year’s class too ( 9 year olds). I find their feedback extremely refreshing. Now while attending the seminar I was the best student, everyone was impressed from the ideas and the use of web2 tools both in my scenarios and in class and everyone said I was the only one who who pass the exams we had to take and with a great passing score. Today I took the exam . Well, I am not sure I have passed it…… And as I was expecting to have a great score too, I think I should be happy if I gain just a poor passing score. And I couldn’t help feeling this horrible feeling of failure . People who couldn’t even send an email have passed, and I might not. And I also can’t help thinking of my students and how well they do on exams, and how they feel afterwards. Then I saw your post: Is failure a circle? Good students fail too, people expect too much from them , how do they feel after a bad result? If it is so hard for us -being grown ups- how harder it must be for them. All of them – promising or not- need a different approach to help them surpass the failures. You are not only comforting yours in class but some of us too. It really helps to see that you are not alone and that you share fears and failures with someone far far away….. Thank you for being sensitive enough and yet so brave!!!!

  7. Joan Young says:

    I feel the pain in your post and want to run all the way to your “neck of the woods” and give you a great big hug! Failure is really a state of mind, not a destination. Trust me, I have “failed” many times, and, by the way, I was nominated as well and did not get an Edublogs award.
    The thing is, as you venture out there in the world, you will fail often. Perhaps it’s come in a cycle now because you have been bold enough to say, “Hey, everyone! I have something important to offer!”
    You are one feisty incredible woman and teacher with so much to offer. Please do read Carol Dweck’s work. It is very powerful. If you had just held back and not started a blog, taken on a challenging grade in teaching, not tried for that job, THEN yes, that would be failing. When things don’t work out exactly the way we want, it’s time to evaluate what it is we want most and keep going for it! Each time we try, we get one step closer to our desired end.
    I love ya girlfriend!

  8. Please lighten up. The world is not going to end if you didn’t win an EduBlog (my own adult children are upset with me that I didn’t tell them I was even nominated and they could vote for me – I just never campaigned or told anyone). My ISTE proposal wasn’t even considered. Of course I never entered one! Not every student I taught did what they were supposed to. You have your good days and bad ones. It is part of life. I need the happy go lucky Amanda tweeting. These are just small setbacks we all have faced. Tomorrow will be a brighter day. It better be because I don’t like my friends being upset or being down.

    If you think you are beaten, you are;
    if you think you dare not, you don’t;
    if you like to win, but you think you can’t
    it’s almost certain you won’t.

    Life’s battles don’t always go
    to the stronger or faster man/woman,
    but sooner or later the man/woman who wins
    is the one who thinks he/she can.

  9. kelalford says:

    Thank you for writing this post!
    You are not alone in the failure department! I think the fact that you have the courage to share that with all of us shows that you are using your experiences to reflect on how you can be a better teacher, and that is far from being a failure!
    You help all educators with your honesty in your posts, so please keep taking those risks and share your successes and failures!
    In my book you are a HUGE success! Heck you are Twitter Rock Star!

  10. Casey says:

    Three reasons you are successful:

    1. Most honest post I’ve read in a while.

    2. You were specific about stuff most people would be hurt about but scared to admit

    3. You add great value to the teaching profession

    4. You aren’t defined by your achievement but your character. You are a caring teacher.

    5. If you remain positive, these failures will not be fatal

    6. You never fail, u learn.

    1. amandacdykes says:

      Casey, that’s 6 not three 😉 thanks.

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