My kids, those who I fail in front of all of the time. Those kids who are not afraid to try something new, to create, to think of wacky ideas. Those kids that try again and again and again every day, they just froze. Came to me in droves, asking for help, giving up without even putting their pencil to the paper. The culprit? Having to create a data-set that fit the clues; one math problem. Frustrated at first I told them to just try, mess around with some numbers, attack it whichever way they thought made sense. Just do something. And yet they didn’t. They had given up, they had surrendered to this math problem, it simply made them feel stupid.
So this evening, sitting at the dinner table I shared my story with Brandon, who does more teacher reflection than the average teacher it seems. I asked “Why? Why were they so afraid to try?” He stated, “Failure.” And I think he is right. My kids, my adventurous, smart 5th graders, were afraid to fail. Were afraid to not get it right, so instead of trying it, they simply refused. That way I would have to show them how, I would never know that they were not smart enough to do it, I would never know that this itty bitty problem had matched them, even if none of this was true.
So what do we do when the kids are afraid to even try? What do we do when all of the times we have failed in front of them is forgotten? When they have started to believe that if they cannot get it right, they should not even attempt it? I have a classroom were we thrive on failed attempts, learn from our mistakes, and always pick ourselves up and yet today that all vanished. Tomorrow it will be back, I am sure, those kids will be daring again, but today, they were simply scared and all I can think to myself is; what have we done to our kids?