It is far more common to hear a pupil tell their friends they scored ten out of ten in a test than it is to hear them share the fact they scored just three, but the simple truth is we need our pupils to embrace failure and perhaps, as teachers, we should even encourage it.
I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.Michael Jordan
When famously asked how it felt to fail 10,000 times before finally inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison replied; “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work”.
As teachers, we need to encourage our pupils to believe that failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success. We need to create an environment in which pupils are able to make mistakes, reflect on what did not work and, to paraphrase Churchill, stumble forward with no loss of enthusiasm.
In Drama, that is exactly what we try to do in our rehearsal rooms. Whether a pupil is rehearsing for an exam piece or taking part in a co-curricular production, the rehearsal room should become a place where taking risks is commonplace.
I like to think that if we try something out, whether it is blocking a scene or working out how to deliver a line, and we all recognise it is not working, no one agonises over it, we simply admit it is not working and we try again until it does work – and inevitably, it will. However frustrating things get, we just keep going.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.Thomas Edison
In Drama, we try to encourage pupils to become risk takers and accept that risk goes hand in hand with failure, but to remember that those who aren’t willing to take a risk must be prepared to settle for the ordinary. Actor Matt Smith said it better; “Every artistic venture is a risk, and it has to be that way, so you do as much preparation as you can until you turn up on set. Some might work and some might not, but that’s what makes it interesting”.
And interesting is good. I am happy if our pupils produce interesting work because we know that not every performance or every play is going to be groundbreaking, but within every performance and every play, we can find something to take forward in our work that will make the next performance better.
As a teacher, we get to see pupils at the start of their life’s journey and as a Drama teacher; many that I work with aspire to become professional actors. The reality is that only a few will, but from my experience, those that do succeed are those that take risks and learn from every mistake.
Over the years, I have come strongly to believe that if you are willing to take a risk and it works, you will be happy. If you take a risk and it does not work, you will be wiser for next time. Embrace the failures and do not regret the risks you took; only those you weren’t brave enough to.