Without Failure There Is No Success

Before seeing the below video clip of JK Rowling’s Harvard University commencement speech, I had only ever read her fictional work.

Harry Potter is a life’s work of which any writer would be proud.

But it was the non fictional story of her own life, that laid the foundations for an inspirational address to Harvard graduates back in 2009.

Even now, 5 years on from her speech, her advice, insights and reflections are still so relevant to the students we teach (as well as to the colleagues we work with) and I wanted to share it with you all to provide some further affirmation that is definitely ok to get things wrong.

Without allowing failure to become my key objective (we never try to fail), I seem to find ways of failing a lot in my role as a teacher, especially when it comes to classroom innovation.

No big deal, everyone survives.

Indeed, I would say its the principal calling card of a life long learner.  Having said that, I always fail safe in the knowledge that what I was striving for was something greater, more meaningful or valuable for the kids I teach, and most importantly , I/we learn from it.

As teachers, we must have the courage to push boundaries, try new things and the humility to admit/ accept when things haven’t gone right.  The great thing about working with kids is that they don’t mind telling you straight!

Imagine having teachers modelling this and explaining innovation/failure/success to students as they go over the course of a students school life.

Being courageous then becomes part of their very fabric of living and learning.

Imagine a culture of innovation was the norm, like working at google.

In the words of J.K Rowling;

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.”

I hope you enjoy watching as much as I did




3 thoughts on “Without Failure There Is No Success

  1. Great blog post Ross. Finding meaning outside our subject area helps to making learning make more sense to us. At times we can be so overwhelming focused on the content within our subject area that we truly lose sight of what makes learning genuinely meaningful for our students. Taking risks and having the courage to do things differently is what it is all about. As you said in this post, ultimately what is being strived for is something greater, more meaningful or valuable for the kids that you teach. That is the most important thing to remember as we move our practice forward. If our heart is in the right place when we tinker with new ideas and approaches, everyone wins.

  2. Great post Ross. I think as teachers sometimes we “play it safe” just to maintain a sense of control in our classrooms – but I agree that we need to step outside of our comfort zones and push those boundaries to really grow as educators.

    But it’s not just teachers who need these skills, we also have to build the courage to take risks in our students as well. There’s a great resource that has just been released by the ReachOut.com Professionals team called “Embracing the F Word” (http://au.professionals.reachout.com/embracing-the-f-word). It has some great lesson ideas around encouraging students to learn from failures and to see failure as a stepping stone towards success.

    I think risk taking, humility and embracing our failures are really important skills for students and teachers as we move further into the 21st century – a world of innovation requires risk takers – and the more we fear failure the less risks we will take.

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