What immediately comes to mind when you hear the word “failure?” If we had to guess, it probably isn’t something positive. That’s not surprising because failure historically has a bad rap, especially in a school setting. Visitation Academy is working hard to change this negative connotation, embracing the value of failure, and its important role in shaping our students’ confidence and resilience and creating lifelong learners.
The Value of Failure
“Failure is not the end of the challenge, but rather, a part of the learning. If you don’t have failure, you don’t get to practice handling setbacks.” Sue Andrews, Instructional Technology, Visitation Academy.
The truth is, failure is a natural part of life, and it’s okay to fail. In fact, Visitation Academy believes there are just as many, if not more, lessons to be learned when a student misses the mark than when she succeeds. It is how we, as leaders and educators, prepare our students to respond to their setbacks that allow them to gain the courage and confidence needed to grow from the experience. At Visitation, we are redefining failure by:
Creating a Safe Space
We are committed to creating a nurturing and inclusive environment where young women feel empowered in both their successes and setbacks. At Visitation, that comes from an all-girl setting where our young women fulfill every role, and talented faculty members that support students through life inside and outside of the classroom.
Setting Realistic Expectations
When students are comfortable with the reality that they will not always be perfect, they are able to better prepare for their mistakes and overcome them. Monica Fuglei, of Arapahoe Community College, summarizes this concept nicely, “Students who integrate mistakes into the educational process are prepared for the feedback that helps them grow.”
Prompting Individual Discovery
The Visitation experience is personalized to each student, so really, there are no true failures. Instead, our instructors work one-on-one with students to understand their needs and coach them through whatever setbacks they face along the way. “We teach our students that, when one door closes, another one opens,” Sue Andrews adds. “A student who doesn’t get a role in the school musical may find she has a passion for lighting, production, or costume design.” Amy C. Edmondson of Harvard Business Review refers to these situations as “intelligent failures,” which occur when experimentation is necessary before finding success.
Students who experience a healthy, supportive relationship with setbacks begin to practice the resilience and grit that define a modern leader. Angela Lee Duckworth, a developmental psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, describes grit as a great determinant of a student’s future. She also notes that it’s a trait that may be learned over time, but only if they “see the relationship between practice and failure, not just the end result of a fruitful venture.”
No one sets out to fail. Being a confident, lifelong learner, however, means understanding the learning and growth opportunities that accompany setbacks. Visitation is immensely proud of the work our faculty is doing to coach our students through these experiences and give them the confidence to face the challenges of tomorrow.