Learning to fail, learning to learn

It is hard to believe that when you look at a new born baby that it may grow up to be the world’s next Einstein, Curie, Rinaldo or Lady Gaga. It could become anything, at that moment you don’t know. In the majority of cases that small baby probably won’t become anything so extreme, hopefully just a normal, kind, rights respecting human being. Even that is an amazing journey in learning.

We expect that the vast majority of children will learn to walk, to talk, to dress themselves, to be toilet trained. That’s quite a lot of skills, there is a bit of explicit teaching but a lot they are self-motivated to learn. They watch, they want to do it, they try, they fail, they try again. Not many children don’t walk because they fell down the first time.

When, or maybe,  why does this desire to learn seem to stop in some children? Children in Reception seem to love learning – they want to learn to read, they are happy to scribble with a pencil, they love racing round outside, digging holes, finding worms, asking questions. They don’t seem so worried by failing and trying again. By Y6 children’s attitudes have changed, “I don’t want to do French Miss”, “I’m rubbish at maths”, when did this creep in?

As an adult I still love to learn; I am currently learning to play the trombone, before my holiday last year I learnt a smattering of Italian. I can safely say that I have had a fair amount of failures in both, but I want to do it, I carry on. In the past I have worked in a school that did a lot of work on Growth Mindsets and showed us Dweck videos; I think I already worked along these lines. Some children do not, even from quite a young age. For them failure is not an option that they are prepared to risk.

Without learning to fail it is difficult to learn. Is this why we have some of the problems with children absconding from lessons? Are they just afraid to fail and choosing not to start is choosing not to fail? This cannot just come from school. We can set up an environment where failure is fine, failure is a stepping stone to learning, all mistakes are good mistakes there are plenty of cliches that we can quote but in the big wide world in which they live is it the same? I guess not, you fail you lose.

Perhaps if we can show children that we love to learn, that we make mistakes, they may, like a child having an inbuilt desire to move or communicate start to want to learn. I do hope so.

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Learning to fail, learning to learn

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