Failing isn’t a final destination.

At mile three of eight on the 10th week of marathon training it happened. Something pulled, popped, or went out of place in my right leg so bad I had to call for a ride home. I was frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged. In the moment I thought my marathon training was over, I thought about quitting, then I thought about my son.

He is struggling in his classes.  We are both frustrated with how things are going right now and we are only weeks into the school year. He wants to quit and some nights I am pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to fix this situation. What I know is this-I can’t take his class for him, just like he can’t run my marathon for me.  Helping him internalize and apply a growth mindset is in turn, helping me run again.

Setbacks are a part of the process. Learning isn’t always linear. The outcomes are not always going to be what you predicted. The work isn’t always going to be easy.  Recognizing I will not complete all of the 110 training runs over the course of 18 weeks has been a hard pill to swallow and realizing my injury will put me back 4 training runs is frustrating. Reframing this setback has allowed me to cross train (bike), have more time to read and write (like this blog post), and give me a rest so when I am ready to run again I will be looking forward to it.  Homework is a chance for my son to be the expert and talk through how he solves equations, identifies the continents, and reads aloud to me what he is learning in class.  Sometimes he is able to catch the mistake just by talking  aloud and other times we are able to formulate a specific question for his teacher about where he is getting stuck.

Ask for help. Almost immediately after I hurt my leg I was on the phone with my running friends. This is what I just did, what should I do? In order to get real help I had to be honest with what I just did wrong. It wouldn’t have worked for me to say I twisted my ankle when it really was my hamstring. The same can be said with teaching and learning. In our weekly PLC meetings at school teachers have trust with each other-enough that they can be honest in where they are needing specific support in a content specific teaching strategy and willing to take ideas from others that could move their students forward. In my son’s case we are navigating the difference between knowing the content and applying it in a group setting.  Until his team (myself, him and his teacher) knows the root of the problem we will throwing darts in the air trying to fix it.

Run a Different Route. Sometimes we have to take a different path to get to the final destination. The route I was taking for that run had me actually going in reverse of how I normal ran those country roads. All of a sudden a road I run weekly looked completely different to me. Teachers are route changers by nature. When they know the outcome and layer the gifts and needs of their students they can change the course of learning to ensure students get to the final destination successfully.

You will never be fully ready before you start. During a recent sermon at our church the pastor stated “If you wait until you have all the answers-you will never be ready”. Fear-based behaviors can attack our spirit and can fix the mindsets of our students.  Modeling a fail forward mentality for your students (and your own children) gives them a glimpse at your own vulnerability and opportunities to feel comfortable  trying on their own.

Seasoned with prior knowledge and experiences, armed with advice and support from others, equipped with new strategies, my son and I are going to try again. Our recent setbacks will not be our final destination, just a part of the process of learning.


I just finished:  Jen Hatmaker of Mess and Moxie

Currently Reading:  Hacking Education.

Up Next:  Bored and Brilliant. 

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