Failure

The subject of educational discourse has seemed to spiral around the “failure” of students. At one time the idea seemed to be a sink or swim mentality – the student either does the work and passes or doesn’t. Now the prevailing ideology seems to have shifted to “failure is not an option”. And students are “held accountable” at all costs and are required to complete all work. This recent thinking has often led to teachers feeling blamed for student failure and that administrators and parents are no longer asking what can the child do better and instead are asking, “what can the teacher do to better accomodate the failing student?”.

Those who are against this current way of thinking claim we are no longer holding students accountable and we are setting them up for failure in the “real world”. Those who support the new philosophy often note that second chances pervade our society (even in the real world), and that students who are not allowed to fail are being held more accountable as they are not allowed to not do the work and just take the F.

I don’t have any answers and find myself fence hopping depending on the day and even the student. We are not doing students any favors by simply assigning the F, yet students ought to learn the importance of intrinsic motivation. I think we need to deal with each student on an individual basis. Some students are very good at “working the system” of both camps. Some students need the support of being forced to do the work before they understand the value of working hard, while other students might need to understand there are consequences for not pulling their own weight.

Of course considering each student individually is more difficult, but I didn’t become a teacher because it was going to be easy.

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2 Responses to Failure

  1. Jeremy says:

    Jerrid,
    My problem with school is that it is so different from real life. Outside of education, no place I’ve ever worked has allowed me to repeatedly “not get it’ and continue to be employed. Outside of education, my failures as a worker affect those around me. As my wife puts it, “There is a lack of personal responsibility in schools that it blows my mind. (She’s not a teacher.)”
    I’d type more, there seems to have been an explosion in someone’s pants… back to daddy duty.

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  2. Megan Roelfs says:

    So I know I’m more than a month behind on your blog, as I have finally begun reading today, but oh well! I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about this problem, and am still having arguments form on both sides in my head. I have seen this problem in every level of education, and have seen my brother struggle with this as a student.
    My brother will try to float along completing as little work as possible. When last April approached, he was failing all classes but one (he was in 7th grade). The teachers allowed him to turn in work from January and he ended up passing each class with C’s and B’s. As a teacher and as a parent this frustrates me for multiple reasons. As a teacher I am frustrated because he was given the same amount of credit for completing his work months late, as well as turning in work that was subpar (I remember distinctly even reading one of his papers which had clearly been plagiarized). As a parent this frustrates me because the student is not learning from his mistakes, which is only teaching him that this type of behavior is tolerated, encouraging him to continue to act this way in the future.
    I understand that these actions were carried out by multiple teachers, which leads me to believe that the principal had been involved, this of course may be completely false. It concerns me that we are allowing students through who are, as you said “work the system”. However, I’m still not sure what I would have/will do in this situation when the time arises. I suppose that’s good enough for now! :)

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