If I knew I wouldn’t fail…

If I knew I couldn't fail
If I knew I wouldn’t fail..

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

Have you ever asked your students this question? You might be surprised at what they tell you.  For the last few years I’ve started the year in my 7th and 8th grade Language Arts class with a small unit on Famous Failures.

Our students often feel that if they can’t get it the first time they are failures and will never get it.  But, as adults we know that is not the truth!  That is what I love about this mini-unit.  Students learn that people they thought were famous overnight actually had many struggles and failures along the way.

Students read articles about several different people from Steve Jobs to Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan all who’ve had great heartache in their lives and were certainly not an overnight success. (I use this resource by Rigorous Resources by Lisa, but you could easily accomplish the same objective without the resource.) Students read and discuss the articles in small groups, then each group shares with the whole class how the person they read about overcame a perceived failure and turned it into a positive. This makes for some amazing class discussions!

We end class with this short video found on Youtube.  It reinforces many of the articles read in class and also introduces a few more famous failures.

The best part of the assignment comes the second day when I ask students, “If you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would you try?” Students have to write a short essay (usually 2-3 paragraphs) answering the question.  Below are just some of the responses I received from my 7th grade students this year:

If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would work at NASA.

If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would try out for basketball.

If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would create a suit so people could live on Mars.

If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would become a writer.

If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would create a band that tours the world.

If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would join orchestra.

If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would build a car/plane/boat and call it a “cloat”.

If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would be one of those jet piolets that put out forest fires.

If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I would get PHD in Energy engineering and a Master’s in Physics.

And the list goes on for 186 more student dreams!

It is amazing to see the hopes and dreams of my students.  As I teach them the skills they need for reading and writing, I want to push them further toward their goals and encourage them not to give up, to try the things that scare them for they just might realize the wonder of thier dreams!

Encouraging students daily!






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