What a year this has been! Actually, we can date back to March 13, 2020 as the day many of our academic careers changed. I think I speak for all educators when saying that there were more than a few times in this school year where you felt like a failure in your career and even in your personal life. It was hard to feel accomplished as there were constant curve balls thrown in our direction. Educators have never had to pivot so frequently and so drastically. They say when there is a will, there’s a way, and somehow, some way, we made it to the end.

Challenges and Failures Faced this Past Year

Where do I even begin? There were numerous challenges faced throughout this unusual year of hybrid, virtual, and in-person learning. Making personal connections with remote students was certainly a challenge. There were many teachers that had students in their class that they never met “in-person”. Learning to teach students in a new way was also very challenging. Personally, my school had a hybrid set-up for 75% of the school year, so after my whole group lesson, I was constantly trying to bounce back and forth between working with the in-person students, then running back to my screen to work with my virtual students.

Having enough time for planning and creating materials was another challenge. Not only did educators have to reinvent the wheel, but we had to reinvent our assignments. This took much time and effort and was no simple task. Grading assignments was also a challenge. Giving students feedback in real time is so important to help them understand the value of what is being completed, so many nights were spent grading and commenting on work.

This leads directly into the next challenge of creating time for oneself. Self-care was such a buzz word in 2020-2021, though I am not sure many people knew how to do this or knew how to do this well.

Support from home was another factor that challenged teachers this school year. Students with a lack of support at home truly struggled to succeed in the hybrid and virtual learning environments. There were also many limitations on holding students accountable for behaviors that were inappropriate. Differentiating instruction and taking on so many roles were other challenges teachers faced. I could go on, but any educator knows it was a year unlike any other, and the challenges were infinite.

Ways to Turn Failure into Success

Embrace Failure

Model to your students that it is okay to fail and it is okay to make mistakes. I can’t even begin to remember all the “failures” I had each day. Posting an assignment in Google Classroom without actually attaching the assignment, opening a Google Meet late, and forgetting to post my Daily Assignment Schedule were just a few of the failures I experienced throughout the year.

I took this and embraced it. I just made a joke of it with my class saying things such as, “Oh, I guess I made another mistake! Can you believe it?” We would all get a laugh out of it and move on. It made the students feel comfortable to see that I was certainly not perfect, and they were more vocal and felt better when they made a mistake themselves. It helped to create a wonderful classroom environment.

Becoming a Forced Expert

At the beginning of the virtual learning journey, Google Classroom was utilized, but not in the way it is today. Many educators were forced to learn and understand a “new” program which will benefit students for years to come. The struggles, the frustration, and the failures all played a part in shaping educators for a more modern approach to teaching and helping students to learn. Pathways that we didn’t know existed are now used. The ability to keep assignments in one virtual classroom is helpful in keeping students (and teachers) more organized. Teachers have learned many new best practices throughout the past year!

Make Failure Opportunity

Change your viewpoint! Look at failures as opportunities to learn and grow. Don’t dwell on mistakes and things that did not go as planned, but just turn it into a teachable moment for yourself. In doing this, you not only better yourself, but you show your students that sometimes failures lead to success, big or small. Your attitude is everything, so show your students how to take a setback and make it something positive! Everyone experiences failures and letdowns throughout their life, so this is a great life lesson to model for students.

Let Failures Boost Your Confidence

Failures can help to teach educators, as well as students, how to cope with emotions when things do not go quite right. Learning how to better cope with your emotions can lead to higher levels of confidence in oneself. A failure does not define you, but rather how you react and deal with that failure does. Confidence prepares you for many life experiences and how to move in the direction of opportunity and not shy away from it. Confidence gives you a sense of control over your life, and what a wonderful trait you can help students walk away from your class with.

Continue to Set Goals

Take your failures and turn them into a goal. Whether it be short term or long, set personal and professional goals you wish to achieve. You may not be successful on your first attempt, but when you plan out how to take a failure and make it a success, that’s winning the battle. Don’t let small setbacks sway your vision from the bigger picture. If you can dream it, you can do it!

All in All

As you can see, the ways one can turn failure into success are all intertwined. Goal setting, confidence, and embracing opportunity are a common theme throughout. As the great Michael Jordan stated, “I have failed over and over again and that is why I succeed.” Imagine if he threw the towel in when he didn’t make the basketball team in high school? He is a prime example of someone that turned failure into success. Anyone can do it, they just need to have the right mindset and maybe a little guidance or a good role model along the way!