Tag Archives: Failure

Remember at the start of the year..

1 Feb

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I am reminded that at the beginning of the year it is important to celebrate milestones and success. I was inspired the other day when one of my PLN shared her learnings from 20 years teaching. It is important to celebrate and recognise we do things well. As I start the year I remind myself of the following as I begin:

  • If you want to squeeze everything out of life and discover your true potential, you have to be prepared to make some mistakes along the way. Mistakes are ok.
  • When you are going, well people will put you down. This seems to be part of kiwi culture. However, there are those there that are cheerleaders, who celebrate every little win you have even when you cannot see it. Look out for them.
  • There is absolutely nothing that beats a winning day. Enjoy it.
  • There is always more in you than you realize.
  • I have found two things that are so important: resilience (getting up when others wouldn’t) and curiosity – an overwhelming need to know if you can do it.
  • When times are good you will be able to reward yourself with nice things but they will never truly reflect the hard work and sacrifices that has gone in that no one saw.
  • There is nothing that will replace hard work. Nobody can do that for you. There are no short cuts.
  • Most days you will not get everything done and that is ok.
  • My tribe is important. Look after them. They are there.
  • Always remember it is the little things that count.
  • Reach out to your teams and remember we are all alone together! This is best expressed by my own whakatoki this year He waka eke noa. A canoe which we are all in with no exception.
  • The more I learn the more I change but deep down I hold those same values as I did back as a little boy.

Have you had time to reflect before you get into the busy work for the year?


Professional Reading January

29 Jan


I know there are lots of books out there on creativity but Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert has a great deal to say. Gilbert writes that one of the biggest roadblocks to creativity is fear. Whether it’s the fear or failure or the fear of rejection, staff must be encouraged to speak up because often they won’t because they’re scared that their ideas won’t pass the test. As a leader, it’s up to you to communicate to employees that creative ideas are welcome and encouraged. A way to do this effectively is by clearly communicating that ideas are encouraged, and failure is not shunned, but instead viewed as a learning tool. We are teachers after all. Lifelong learners.

It can be hard to let your people make mistakes, but the same failure that stops them in their tracks can be the failure that helps them develop a stronger solution or idea. Instead of expecting perfection, good leaders inspire their employees to fail quickly and makes them feel safe enough to share and try their ideas. We do it with our students so why not with staff?


Failure is OK

12 Jun


I play a You Tube Clip to our students leaders on Leaders Day in January all about failure. It is a process many of them have not had to deal with.  All the great success stories, from Michael Jordan to Steve Jobs to James Dyson, are steeped in failure. Most successful people will tell you that you absolutely must fail in order to succeed, and that failure is essential for growth. Many great innovations were born out of failure. Failure, then, is not bad, but rather something to be expected, embraced, and learned from.

I have been thinking that students’ intelligence is determined by how well they succeed, and those who fail are deemed inferior.

Students are celebrated for their successes and punished, teased, or rejected for their failures.

Rarely, in a traditional classroom setting, is failure used as a pathway to innovation.

So our students enter the workforce having grown fearful of failure, believing that any failure will prove them unworthy, and many workplaces prove them right, unwilling or unable to foster an environment where failure is okay.

But if we know that on the other side of failure potentially lies innovation, growth, and discovery, then we need to practice failing, and failing big.

So, how can we change the current mindset, both in ourselves and others, that failure = bad?

Top companies like Google, Toyota, EXXON, Apple and AIG all encourage failure by staff by highlighting the following:

  • They make sure people don’t feel the need to hide or cover up failures, because they make sure their staff know they won’t be fired for the failure—instead they understand that the more quickly they own their failure, the more quickly it can be learned from and built upon.
  • They celebrate failures, sometimes as literal celebrations with beer and wine and sometimes just as public opportunities to say “Great try! We’ve learned so much from this”.
  • They require employees to fail big in their first three months of employment.
  • They actively practice a “no blame” culture, where those who make mistakes are not publicly shamed or blamed, but rather the entire team looks at the mistake and what the next steps or opportunities are.
  • They see mistakes or failures as just that—opportunities for something new or unexpected.
  • They understand that if their team is actively trying things and failing, they will eventually discover something great.
  • They see failure as a beginning not an ending.

Do we advance failure? How are we responding to this now? This week I will remind my staff and students alike that it is OK to FAIL>. 

The conditions for great teachers to thrive

2 Nov


As curriculum leaders we must create conditions for our students and teachers to thrive. Here are some thoughts on getting your team to thrive.

Growth: Great teachers are learners; they want to move forward. Usually, they have mastered the key skills in teaching and are looking to refine their practice or explore innovations of various forms. They want the space and time to grow professionally. However, this has to be seen in the context where all teachers are working collaboratively, forming larger groups where the levels of expertise will vary. This is the challenge.

Recognition: This is a key motivating factor but we are not talking simply about financial reward. Maximising pay is important but salary increments never do justice to the additional value really great teachers deliver. It is also often the case that very strong teachers are self-effacing, don’t want a fuss made and don’t court public affirmation. What matters is often simply that their work is recognised, acknowledged, appreciated, and not taken for granted. Beyond the rigmarole of formal lesson observations and examination postmortems, there needs to be a culture where excellence is acknowledged on an individual basis and celebrated publicly. This isn’t to create divisions – it is to identify where we have role models, to have exemplars for others to follow and, crucially, to ensure that the exponents of great teaching get the recognition they deserve. If you have a lot of teachers like this, then you need to apply this to them all. Do I do enough in this area? No… but I must and will do more!

Care: Finally, it is important to create a culture where teachers are looked after as people. Great teachers often have a touch of the ’tis but a scratch’ attitude. High performing people are not immune to stress or the usual array of health or personal set-backs. I’m a great believer that you get more from everyone by being conspicuously supportive with personal issues. Whether this is taking a flexible approach to part-time working, returning from maternity leave, enabling people to see children in their primary assembly or graduation, helping people to look after elderly parents or simply get to the bank.. it pays to be generous and flexible. I always say ‘family first’ because that is how I feel about my own. If you want people to give their all, they need to feel that the trade-off is worthwhile; the community spirit fostered by a strong family-first approach, nurtures loyalty, commitment and the determination to strive for success.


22 Sep


One thing that troubles me today with my students indeed my own daughter, sorry Charlotte, is their fear of failure. I was thinking “What happens when a student takes a risk and fails? How do you respond when a student makes a mistake – especially a character mistake like lying? Do you punish and push kids out of your room for poor character? Or, do you coach them to critically analyze their actions?”

Without a safe, supportive emotional climate, students will not be able to learn from mistakes or take risks. We cannot get authentic growth unless students feel safe being authentic.

Perhaps as role models we must illustrate or admit to our own failures more frequently. Be authentic and reveal your own mistakes – even in-the-moment – and model what it looks like to show integrity, grit, and ownership. Admit that a lesson didn’t go well because you didn’t spend much time planning it?

This modelling is crucial for many reasons. First, it provides examples of character for students who may not have great role-models. Second, it establishes trust by showing that we are all human. Third, in creating that relational trust our students will understand and forgive our mistakes, we create a culture of accountability. They know we are human. They know we also must make mistakes. As parents and teachers we must admit we are infallible.

What is your experience?

Learning from Mistakes

25 Feb

So how do we deal with disappointment in our children and our students? Indulge me for a moment as I reflect also as a parent., I know how much I want my child to succeed in whatever she puts her mind too but at the same time I know there will be disappointment. Often I will want to carry my daughter’s bag from the car to school because I want to be Dad. But it must not be habit.

I know there will be times when I cannot understand why she didn’t make it, why she didn’t get it, why she didn’t win, but at the same time I don’t want her to feel she always should. I want her to realize that it doesn’t come down to life being unfair, but rather that we cannot get everything we put our minds and hearts to.

Some parents think that everybody should win a prize. That it is not healthy for us to “do” this to children and I would agree with them if the students were forced to participate, but they are not. In school there is such a fear of disappointment and having our students fail. We shield them from sadness and anything where they might not succeed, but at what cost? We cannot shield them forever, we cannot control life and other people. I think this build resilience. So why not help them through disappointing situations instead? Why not have mini situations where we can help them process their feelings and give our students our children tools they can use later in life as well. Why not be role models rather than bubble creators? Why not let them fail and then learn from that?

Apologies for the haphazardness today. Promise to be on the wagon tomorrow.

My Half Ironman Dream

9 Feb

Followers of this blog will be aware of my new passion; for the last 18 months for Half Iron Man. I devoted an episode to it some months ago and this week I would like to re visit it as my event was on Saturday. My story isn’t about breaking records but rather the process of finishing and to go places in mind and body that we once thought of as impossible.

Here is what I learned:

You can’t always get what you want

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There is beauty in giving something everything you’ve got and never giving up. Swimming 2km in open water is a FAR cry from doing it at the local Aquatic Centre. This challenge got the better of me and I had to make the call to get someone else to do this leg.

I was shattered at first but I quickly understood that maybe I wasn’t meant to do the swim this time. A DNF would have crushed me. I had one previously in a club event and it was tough to handle. As it was the day was long and hot with the other two disciplines.

The Human Body and Mind Is Capable of Incredible Things

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2km swim, 90 km on a bike followed by a half marathon. It’s a massive task. In addition there is the added mental stress of gear failure or food issues. You need commitment in training, diet and family. My journey has changed the way I think. It has changed the way I deal with staff and students alike. It has taught me with enough hard work, diligence, and effort we can certainly achieve monumental goals we never thought possible. At the 70km mark on the bike I had serious doubts.

The Cadence or Pace

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You must learn to set the right pace. Come out the gates too fast and you’ll be dead half-way through the race. This is a hard lesson I have learned in the past. I wanted to finish and do it comfortably.

Competitors Make Us Better

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I love other participants. It is like golf. We are all out their but playing the course not really each other in our own world. These people could be viewed as competitors, but most racers realize that other participants bring the best out of their performance. I love learner and training with those better than me. In my case that is almost everybody.

Just Finish the Race

When it comes to tis, it’s not about what place you earned when you finish the race – it’s that you cross the finish-line. Search YouTube for some classic examples of bravery.

This is my favourite:



It’s not about winning it’s about competing.

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Okay, so to be honest this is not a mantra of mine before competing but now I understand. After yesterday I understand so much more.


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