Where Is Ms. Frizzle When We Need Her?

Although a lot of the conversation around teaching young people how to fail well is aimed at competitive, affluent youngsters who’ve been raised toward a singular goal—that of being admitted to the best college and excelling there—I also think it’s a topic for all young people, maybe especially those who haven’t been equipped to succeed academically.


In an excerpt below from Levo.com, I love this quote taken from Rachel Simmons, a leadership development specialist in the Wurtele Center for Work and Life at Smith College: “What we’re trying to teach is that failure is not a bug of learning, it’s the feature.”

Failure is intrinsic to learning. It’s a part of normal life. As Ms. Frizzle of The Magic School Bus says, “Get messy! Make mistakes!” It’s how we learn. It’s how life works.

Getting a low grade doesn’t mean you’re a failure. A grade is a diagnostic tool that means you need to study more. Or differently. Or get more rest. Or any number of things. The one thing it does not mean is that you can’t do better.

That’s one reason why I love the Khan Academy motto: You can learn anything. If you take them to heart, those four words are incredibly empowering—and not just in the academic realm. You can learn how to … manage your money responsibly, get along with others, improve your writing, improve your math skills, improve your public speaking skills, conquer your shyness … the list goes on and on.

You don’t have to be stuck where you are. You can be a lifelong learner.

For more about the importance of knowing how to fail well, read the excerpt below.

Failure is a part of life but when you grow up as a straight-A student who can kick ass in every subject, score high on any test and write the heck out of a paper in one cramming session, this can actually be really bad for when you enter the real world.

In the real world, especially in the workplace, homework no longer guarantees you are the No.1 person. Ideas, skills, networking, taking a risk, and sometimes just being in the right place at the right time are what get you ahead in your career. And ultimately, unlike in school where there is almost always a safety net, failing is actually one of the most helpful tools.

That is why Smith College is teaching a class on the importance of failure, and it’s about time.

A recent New York Times article by Feminist Fight Club author Jessica Bennett explored the school’s unique new curriculum: teaching students how to fail. During finals, students’ failures were projected on a large screen for everyone to see as part of a new initiative at Smith called “Failing Well.” The effort includes workshops on impostor syndrome and getting over perfectionism plus campaigns that highlight the likelihood of getting a B-minus or lower at Smith (64% chance).

“What we’re trying to teach is that failure is not a bug of learning, it’s the feature,” Rachel Simmons, a leadership development specialist in Smith’s Wurtele Center for Work and Life, told Bennett. “It’s not something that should be locked out of the learning experience. For many of our students—those who have had to be almost perfect to get accepted into a school like Smith—failure can be an unfamiliar experience. So when it happens, it can be crippling.”

Read more at Levo.com.