I had a nice conversation with my students the other day. I was trying to make a point. I placed two statements on opposite ends of the board: No success without failure first AND Failure is not an option. Then I asked them to stand somewhere on the imaginary continuum between the two statements on the board. Which philosophy most matched their own or were they in the gray area? Most aligned themselves with the first statement. Many stood in the middle. A few brave souls stood on the "Failure is not an option" end. From there we divided ourselves in two groups to have a short debate. Students on the side of "No success without failure first" discussed how allowing for failure made them less stressed and willing to try things in order to improve. They felt it led to a more perseverant attitude. Those on the side of "Failure is not an option" felt that by aiming high they would achieve more, accomplish more, or have a better chance of winning. In the end the students explored the idea fairly well.
When the conversation was over, I tried to make a few points of my own.
1) In order for good communication in arguments of this nature (or any "discussions", for that matter), it is good to define terminology clearly. For YOU what does "failure" or "success" mean, for example. Once each side has clearly defined the terms as they understand them, communication can be improved. We can even agree to disagree in a civil manner.
2) I've seen people get paralyzed by a "failure is not an option attitude." I don't want my students to get paralyzed or fail to attempt new things because they worry they can't achieve them on the first attempt. In my classroom, it is okay to fall down. Just get back up and try again.
3) The way I see it, one must be willing to take risks in order to be creative or innovative. And the world needs a lot of up-and-coming innovators. My students are just a few short years away from being the ones to take on some of these big issues. They've got to be able to come up with brand new solutions to brand new issues that face the world today. And while they may feel that in the end "failure is not an option", they must also know that sometimes success only comes after countless failures.
I hope this sets the tone for the class. I hope my students become bigger risk-takers in their speaking, writing, and thinking. I hope they seek quality achievement but only after adequate exploration and discovery. I hope they aim BIG! They are OUR hope, after all!