What is the single most important lesson we can teach our students? I know some would argue a "passion for learning", or "the ability to problem solve", or maybe even "to communicate concisely and elegantly an original thought".
Another thought occurred to me though that above everything else there is one essential item we should teach our students: RESILIENCY. I've always thought it was important but as I get older and more difficult obstacles pop up in life, my resiliency is something I lean on heavily. I know that I will make mistakes but I trust in my ability to rise again. J.K. Rowling talked about the benefits of (epically) failing and resiliency at a Harvard Commencement speech:
"So rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods in my life. During the next five years I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world's first computer-animated feature film, "Toy Story," and is now the most successful animation studio in the world.Students are so focused on the right answer. They fear failure. Standardized tests that emphasize only one right answer don't help to encourage our students of the worthiness of failure. This generation of "helicopter" parents (I'm one of them), are famous for practically scooping up their child mid-fall so the child doesn't scrape his knee. We are missing the chance to encourage our children to succeed by not letting them fail. Make a mistake. What's the worse that can happen? Richard Branson is one of the richest men in the world and is known as much for his successes as his failures. "Being unafraid of failure is, I believe, one the most important qualities of a champion."
There are dozens of examples we can hold up to our students of the importance of failure and resiliency.
However, I believe that students sometimes block out these examples. So perhaps it is up to us to model failure and resiliency. As difficult as it is to take a risk with our students, it is imperative that they see us talk through our failures so that they can better understand the value of resiliency. Without resiliency, failure can never be success.
"I have failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed."
So fail. Even epically. Just remember to get up and dust yourself off.
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”-Sir Ken Robinson