Message from Senior Division head Scott Cowie
Monday, Feb. 20: Family Day; no classes
Tuesday, Feb. 21: Assembly special speaker Spencer West from Me to We, Laidlaw Hall, 9:55 a.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 22: Pink Shirt Day
Wednesday, Feb. 22 to Friday, Feb. 24: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, David Chu Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 25: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, David Chu Theatre, 2 p.m.
Thanks to all of you who attended the Founder’s Day dinner yesterday evening. The event was a great success and provided the opportunity to hear from some of our student musicians and to honour those who give generously of their time and other resources in support of much of the College’s programming.
Our keynote speaker for the evening was Harvard University innovation expert Tony Wagner, who Skyped in from Cambridge, Mass. with an address through which he critiqued traditional aspects of contemporary approaches to education. He challenged all of us – parents, teachers and administrators – to radically rethink our existing framework for teaching and learning in an effort to best prepare students for success in whatever field they choose to pursue in life.
One of the key themes Wagner touched upon was the importance of failure as a paramount step in the learning process. He asked those in attendance to consider whether or not they felt they learned more from their successes or from their failures in life. Wagner argued that our failures provided far more opportunities for significant learning and that the lessons learned when we fall short are longlasting and play a significant role in future success. Given the importance of failure, Wagner questioned why schools (and students and parents) had such an aversion to it.
I realize that “failure” in education is a very complicated matter, especially when placed in the context of the overly competitive world of university admission, but I think Wagner’s thoughts on the subject are worth much consideration. In short, failure and, more importantly, how one responds to it, can be transformational in the learning process in terms of the development of personal strengths of character.
Regardless of their field of expertise, one of the fundamental similarities shared by noted leaders worldwide is that they have, to some degree, experienced failure in their lives. In the world of sports, Michael Jordan, arguably the most renowned basketball player of all time, has been very candid about being cut from his high school basketball team and the significant impact this “failure” had on him as he was growing up. Countless other figures — including giants in the realms of the arts, politics and business — have also met with significant disappointment throughout their careers. But they haven’t allowed those experiences to deter them from their respective pursuits of excellence. Here’s a link to a video titled “Famous Failures.” Ironically, the short clip has a spelling error in it. Yet it clearly illustrates the notion that failure needn’t be debilitating, but rather can be a source of intense motivation to succeed beyond expectations.
I think we would all agree that resiliency is one of the most important character traits required for success. Yet, as parents, we’re so reluctant to allow our children to experience failure during their childhood and adolescence. These are time periods which might accurately be characterized as some of the “safest” times in one’s life with respect to the consequences caused by failure. Dr. Alex Russell, whom I’ve referenced in previous missives, has a memorable catch-phrase for this concept. He claims that parents should be more comfortable with the “painful, non-catastrophic failures” in their kids’ lives, as they’re the experiences through which children will truly develop skills to cope with disappointment and loss when the stakes are much higher later on in life.
Here are three points for us as parents to ponder on the topic of failure:
We need to look for environments and create opportunities that will enable our kids to take safe risks, even when failure may sometimes be the result.
We need to be sure to provide an appropriate level of necessary emotional support for our children when they experience failure, loss and disappointment.
And from a practical point of view, we need to help our kids engage in a process of reflection when success isn’t achieved, one which helps them to place the event in perspective and enables them to extract pragmatic lessons to help them with the challenges they will no doubt face in the future.
Wishing you an enjoyable, relaxing long weekend.
Thanks for reading,