This week, I am writing in praise of errors, mistakes and failures. You will be used to reading about the many successes and achievements of our pupils and staff in our Week Ahead, less so about how we respond when things go wrong. Inevitably, schools do not always like to advertise mistakes in public, but I wanted to use the column this week to flag up one particular part of failure and the essential life skill of learning from it.
I have written many times of the benefits of developing resilience. Helping children to understand more about themselves and to face challenges with a determination to overcome them is one of the key parts of a good all-round education. Encouraging pupils to try new things, to dare them to reach beyond the familiarity of their comfort zones, is an inherent part of good teaching.
I have been lucky enough to see several examples of this spirit in our pupils over the past few days alone: children in the Nest being encouraged to experiment with their learning through play; athletes in the Senior and Junior Schools pushing themselves to compete at sports’ day; and our year 13 pupils heavily involved in finalising the paperwork for their university admissions. Of course, some pupils will struggle in these activities - some will inevitably receive the dreaded rejection letter from their universities, or trail in last in 200m race. This might be seen as a failure. Among less resilient youngsters, even the most apparently trivial failure can cause a strong negative response. In the worst cases, the lesson a child learns from such a ‘failure’ is that it is not worth trying again, as the fear of failing again and generating the inevitable sensations of self-doubt are too awful to contemplate. To add to this sense of humiliation, many children associate admitting failure with taking blame.
Little or nothing in a young person’s education can be more destructive than avoiding a challenge for fear of failure, and with it, potentially taking the blame for a failure of effort. This mindset, created by prior experience and magnified by each subsequent disappointment, can cripple a child’s learning. In the Nest, the language of failure is never negative – it is always framed around learning from the experience and trying a different strategy. Not for nothing do teachers talk about ‘fail’ as a ‘first attempt in learning’. Making mistakes in class can be hard for children to accept, but if the language and response that surrounds such inevitable errors is positive, then genuine learning and growth can take place. Businesses too are learning to embrace a culture of ‘intelligent failures’ – instances where mistakes have come about through genuine enquiry or experimentation, not incompetence or inattention. In this way, organisations and schools can absorb the lessons of what went wrong without too much energy, time and focus being spent on blaming someone for the mistake.
It is easier said than done, of course. Most people do not relish the emotional toil of reflecting too long on their failures, and evidence suggests that there is also a cognitive trap lurking within each us. As Amy Edmondson has argued in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “we…tend to downplay our responsibility and place undue blame on external or situational factors when we fail, only to do the reverse when assessing the failures of others - a psychological trap known as fundamental attribution error.” Things should be easier in schools. Failure in a classroom is not of the same potential scale as those in the cockpit of an aircraft, for example, or at the wheel of a bus, but they can nevertheless be embarrassing. By addressing these barriers to learning from failure and embracing a more open culture in which blame is not automatically attributed, schools can help young people develop genuine resilience and a willingness to take risks with their learning.
In this way, I want us to encourage our children to be more open to failure, to foster the mindset required to learn from mistakes and to understand that it is through failure that our greatest triumphs are achieved.
In School Meeting
This week’s Meet the Master slot is open to parents of pupils in the Nest. If you would like to attend, please confirm via email with Ms Emma Shi
(firstname.lastname@example.org) by Wednesday 21st October.
This will be the first opportunity for parents to meet Mrs Jan Bennett, the new head of the Nest. Mrs Bennett will be outlining her vision for the Nest and answering questions from parents. This is the first session for Mrs Bennett to meet parents this term. There will be others over the next two weeks, so if you cannot make this meeting, please be assured that there will be other sessions soon.
FROM THE SERVICES’ SUPERVISOR
After several inspections from local FDA, we have been given approval to restart the salad bar at lunchtimes. The salad bar facility has been upgraded with a new refrigeration system to control the temperature of the salad. From now on, the school’s full catering options are back to normal.
In addition, since the Catering App was introduced at the beginning of the academic year, we would like to remind all parents to install this app. You can top-up meal credit, view the menu, and check lunch expenditure details. If you have any difficulties with installing and using this app, please contact with Ms. Amber Guo email@example.com or contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
FROM MS LI, RECEPTION LEAD
Reception class trip
As an extension to the story we are currently covering, ‘The Little Red Hen’, we will visit a farm in Xiqing district on Monday 19th October. The children will get to see not only the characters from the story but also other farm animals. We think this will be an excellent opportunity for children to observe animal behaviours and needs. This ties in very well with their learning as they can note the similarities and the differences of the animals, which they have discussed all week, for example: Are hens really red? Children learn best when they do - this will be their opportunity to do!
Charity triathlon challenge
Wednesday, 21st October
On Wednesday 21st October, staff and students at Wellington College International Tianjin will attempt a 12-hour Triathlon challenge. This involves non-stop swimming, cycling, and running from 0700hrs to 1900hrs - our goal is to reach 1222km, the distance from Wellington College Tianjin to Wellington College Hangzhou. Students and staff will each get the opportunity to participate throughout the day, and we hope you can sponsor our efforts with this event. Anything you can sponsor is hugely appreciated. Thank you!
There are three ways to contribute:
Please complete this form, and at the category, please pick ‘门票’.
2. Bank Transfer
Bank Branch: 天津浦嘉支行
Account No.: 7713 0154 9000 00042
Please leave a comment that it's for charity!
3. Cash payment to Coach Eelco in office #114A
Monday 19 October 2020
Week 9 (A) (Campus)
8:30AM - 2:30PM
Reception Class trip (NL)
4:00PM - 5:00PM
Student Council and Catering Meeting (LL) (Main Building)
Wednesday 21 October 2020
Charity Triathlon （RG）
Thursday 22 October 2020
2:00PM - 3:00PM
Meet the Master: Nest parents (ES) (In School)
Friday 23 October 2020
Saturday 24 October 2020
Saturday Activity Programme (SAP) (EvK) (Campus)
9:00AM - 1:00PM
Year 4 - 6 ISCOT Table Tennis Tournament @ IST
9:00AM - 1:00PM
Year 7 - 9 ISCOT Badminton Tournament @ TIS