What is Failing?
I've been thinking recently about failure (whatever that is). As a recovering perfectionist, failure is not something I've been familiar with, at least not in the traditional sense.
When I was younger I would make sure I didn't undertake any new endeavor unless I was sure I would be good at it. I studied for tests to get the "right" answers, but didn't really learn much that really stuck. I acted the way I thought others wanted me to because that was the "right" thing to do.
OK, it's time for true confessions here: In the past year I've had up close and personal experience with what the world would call failure.
As I've become more and more interested in topics and subjects that cause me to go deeper into myself and to figure out this bug called "Jodee," I've become less interested in what is "right" and what is "wrong." I'm very interested in questions and in finding the answers to the questions myself instead of quoting someone else. I'm not that good at it yet, mind you - it's taken me all my life to get where I am; I'm not going to alter that overnight - but this insight has proven to be really interesting to me.
So I decided to get certified in a certain training program, which I knew involved a testing process. And when it came time to take the test, I failed. I was crushed. I don't fail! I've never failed at anything!
And then it occurred to me that the reason I failed is because I am at the point in my own personal development where I want to learn things that are applicable to me - things that I can learn and process and formulate and apply in my work and life. I failed the certification because it was an oral exam, and I had to answer the questions the way the questioner wanted them answered. I had put in too much of my own knowledge and experience and it wasn't the way the program had the information set up.
It took me a whole year to muster up the gumption to re-study and re-take the test, but on the second try, I did pass because I knew how the questioner wanted the questions answered. It was a breakthrough for me because I knew what I was doing - and I knew why I was doing it. The world still wants us to have certifications - framed certificates - proof that we "passed." But for me that framed certificate meant much more than all the other certificates I've "earned" in the past. I had "failed" by the world's expectations, but I had "succeeded" by being true to my own beliefs.
It gave me a whole new perspective on high school education and its practical applicability for today's students. No wonder so many of them are disinterested. Our education has been set up to stuff information in to kids' heads, not to let it out.
Here's a line from the book The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie:
To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education. I call it intrusion.
That gives me a whole new perspective.
What does it mean to fail? If I would have hung up that testing process when I "failed" on the first attempt, that would have been true failure. Because I tried again, I got the certification, and am now able to present this program - with my own spin, which I hope will help the training stick for people in whatever way works not for me - or for the program - but for them. I would never have had that perspective unless I had been there myself, and I know it makes me a more empathetic and effective instructor.