Thursday morning, one of my third-grade students raced into my office after morning announcements – “Dr. J, Dr. J, Dr. J, I had a five yesterday on my behavior report! Are you proud of me?” Sure, I replied! Keep up the good work, Eric! I’m proud of you, Lil guy. I’ll be in your classroom today to see you in action. Hey Eric, do me a favor and turn on those two lamps for me.

Eric’s face lit up as he had an opportunity to help me out. He approached the first lamp, stood in the chair, looked at it, and all you can hear was click-click as the light turned on. Dr. J, I did the first lamp. Let me do this second one for you. Thanks, Eric! I appreciate you was my response.

As Eric approached the second lamp, he realized it was different. He became reticent as he examined the lamp. The look eventually turned into confusion. He rubbed it and twisted the switch attempting to turn the lamp on the same way he did the first lamp.

Next, Eric began to look at me, waiting for instructions on how to turn on the lamp. I continued to type, acting as if I didn’t see him looking at me. He then begins talking to himself when he realized I wasn’t going to help him. ” This one is very different! I’ve never seen one like this before.” I could tell he was very frustrated and was ready to throw in the towel when he asked, ” Dr. J, may I go to class now?” Not until you figure out how to turn on that lamp! He sighed with frustration as he approached the lamp again.

It was at this point that something magical happened. He became laser-focused, and you could see the determination in his eyes as he said to himself, ” I’m gonna get it this time!” It was only then that I offered some support. Eric would you like me to help you? I asked. No, he responded, then he said, wait to give me one clue, but don’t tell me.” Well, Eric looks at the switch. “Okay, Doc, I’m looking!” Now think for a second, can you twist it? ” No,” he responded. Now figure out the different ways to turn it on other than twisting. Give me some other things you can do with that switch! Look at it again. “Oh, it looks like you can pull it.” I then turned around and watched him pull it twice before pushing it. Once he pushed it, the lamp came on, and Eric’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. ” Dr. J, I did it. I’ve never seen that kind of lamp before. That’s why it took so long.” No problem, Eric. I give you 3 A’s (you’re awesome, you’re amazing, and you’re appreciated.”

As I reflected on these 5 minutes with Eric, I couldn’t help but think about how often we rob our children of these experiences. I thought about the times we had to figure it out on our own. These were powerful lessons in thinking critically.

To all of my parents, teachers, administrators, mentors, and anyone else working with kids, remember the importance of failure to the learning process. There’s no learning without it.

“When it comes to failure, learn to hate it, expect it, respect it, and appreciate it because you can’t avoid it, and there’s no learning without it ” ~ Marcus Jackson, Ed. D