The Benefits of Failure

Richard Brambley

Failure can be an emotive word. Putting that to one side, failure for a Middle School student is inevitable. It might happen in the form of not completing your homework, under-performing on an assignment or behaving in a way that is not of the standard expected of you. These examples, as well as many other possibilities, will happen for all Middle School students. How we respond to these examples of failure is what is important.

As a parent, we tend to want to step in and prevent or solve these types of situations. Often parents find themselves in the role of protector, rather than the role of guide. It can be exceptionally hard to stop us from doing this. No parent wants their child to fail.

Here is how failure can benefit our children and in the long run set them up for future successes. Failure teaches us lessons, sometimes hard lessons, but we will learn from these and will be less likely to make the same mistake twice. Failure keeps us humble, a quality in our society that seems to be lacking. Failure helps us overcome fear. If we have failed before, we will be more likely to take on challenges that seem beyond us. Failure provides us the opportunity to become creative problem solvers. How are we going to overcome this challenge? Failure strengthens our support system. Knowing that we have people in our life that will be there for us through the good times and the bad will only encourage us to go beyond what we thought we could achieve.

Failure allows us to better empathize with our peers and community, providing them with support and understanding when needed.

When we look at many of the impressive men and women in our world, all of them would have had set-backs. All would have experienced failure. If asked, I suspect each one would say that these experiences made them stronger, smarter and played significant roles in who they have become. Steven Spielberg was rejected from USC’s theatre school three times and J.K. Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before the successes of Harry Potter. When Thomas Edison was asked about the many thousands of failures he had when trying to create the light-bulb he famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I will not go into all the failures that I have experienced, but I am confident that I am better for them and glad that I had the opportunity to learn and grow courtesy of them. I am also confident that our Middle School students are better for the failures that they have experienced, especially since our students have the privilege of failing in the safety net of our supportive community.

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Richard Brambley
Richard Brambley is Director of Middle School at St. Michaels University School

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