Have the Confidence to Embrace Failure

By Amy Turino, PhD, Instructor for Robotics and Summer Camp

Failure – defined simply is “the lack of success.” But somehow in our culture failure can be internalized as the greatest mistake of one’s life sometimes freezing people from ever taking another step forward. A simple lack of success and people shutting down. My experience teaching in environments where a growth mindset is supported and communicated has demonstrated students developing confidence that is evident in how you see them engage in the learning process. 
Let me set the stage, I spent a trimester in the Winter of 2017-2018 working with a group of students who were exploring RoboRobo Kid Block Robotics Kits Level II. These students were familiar with the pieces, CPU and unique programming cards from earlier sessions they had completed with Kid Block Level I. As I worked with these students, I witnessed without my proding a willingness to investigate solutions and modifications to the instructions emitting a confidence in their problem solving ability (that was not present when I worked with these same students in Level I). 
Interesting as I facilitated these students, I didn’t expect to see such a sharp change in perspective or behavior with interacting with the tool or applying themselves to the tasks at hand. But it was almost like any fear they had of failure was easily brushed aside by the strength of joy they found in working through the problem and taking any failure as another challenge. With this new confidence they also were interacting with a new level of programming card that allowed them to be the decision maker, rather than stuck with the coding sequence of preprogrammed cards. This new challenge only heightened and supported their confidence. 
So I offer a new look at failure and a way that it can be redefined so that those working with students can have a different perspective starting out and knowing that a new relationship is possible: 
Failure: an opportunity to engage in confident problem solving 
What implications does this have for teaching and learning? Instead of placing challenges or false failures in front of kids to help them see that we can learn from mistakes, teachers can confidently learn alongside students trusting that if failures occur in supported environment with tools that are engaging for kids, kids are resilient enough to embrace the challenge of the experienced failure and use the experience to confidently continue problem solving.

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I have had the pleasure of working with Build a Robot in their STEM Summer Camps in China as well as the after school camps in the US focused on Robotics. Build a Robot provides me the opportunity to work with students and teachers in a variety of settings to build relationships that strengthen 21st Century Skills and Growth Mindset for all learners - including myself. I feel that learning is lifelong and if I am not learning something then I must be dead. Inspiring a love for learning and helping others see opportunities to grow everyday is what brings me back to facilitating workshops, camps and after school clubs. It really is a partnership of all participants to create a learning environment where everyone can reach their potential. Other than working with Build a Robot, I am a public school educator of 16 years, with a background in Elementary Education, Educational Leadership and Curriculum and Instruction. My greatest teacher is my 3 year old Aria. I love to explore the natural world and bring my experiences to all learning environments.

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