Sharing joy and knowledge from an ordinary life

The Ghost of Failure

I have been meaning to write this post for some time now, but couldn’t work out exactly how.
I’ve been lying awake and it’s no good. Sleep isn’t coming just yet so, pondering failure, I am choosing to write a possible failure of a post.

It is at this time of the year that teachers fear failure. Results day is dreaded- for the statistics we may be faced with and worse, the faces of students who didn’t get what they needed.

For students, failure lies around every corner in wait. Some of them tread dangerously close to it yet pull away from the brink. Others hurtle towards it at frightening speed, seemingly oblivious.

I have looked into theories around failure. How to overcome it. How it can make you stronger. How to embrace it.

Here’s a quote I came across that sums up what many religions and self-help books suggest:
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed on an equal or greater benefit.” Napoleon Hill.

It is suggested that we can grow from our failures and they can be transformed into successes. I’m working towards this philosophy. Yet for many, it isn’t true failures that haunt them but perceived ones, and these are much more dangerous. How can you grow from something that wasn’t a failure in the first place?

I met a student this year that made me realise this truth about my own life; it’s truly amazing the impact students can have on our lives.

I was told all about this student before I met him. Usually it’s the troublesome ones that applies to, but not in this case. This student was severely lacking in self-confidence. He is bright, able and achieved reasonable grades last year but he doesn’t celebrate his successes and never believes positive feedback; choosing only to take on the negative. He has hobbies and a healthy social life. He has a stable and supportive family to greet him at the end of the day. His problem? He has an enduring lack of belief in himself that he has inherited from being average in his classes at school.

These were no ordinary classes, they weren’t even M&S classes.

They were grammar school classes.

His teachers had a damaging effect on him, and they undoubtedly had no idea.

It weighs heavy on my mind that there are hundreds of other ‘failures’ out there who I will unfortunately never get to meet because the words of their teachers have damaged them beyond repair and I fear they will have fulfilled their fate. Don’t get me wrong, teachers are certainly not the only ones to have an influence in this way but it would be dangerous to underestimate our power to damage our students irreversibly. All words should be delivered with care. All attention should be spread evenly and a student’s GCSE grade does not determine their fate. In our data driven education system, sight of this can often be lost.

I am determined for my grammar school student not to fulfil his fate. Currently, that’s one of waking up every day feeling like he could do better. Going to bed at the end of the day feeling like he could do better. It’s ignoring every single one of the positives and allowing all of the negatives to scar him. His current fate is to get another good grade in his next exam and still feel like a failure because it isn’t an A. His fate is to be sure that he’s failing in all aspects of his life and at times this sense of failure will be so strong it will feel like drowning. This will not be his fate on my watch.

This year, I feel a number of people have changed my fate. They are people who have believed in me and encouraged me: Gabriela Sender, Cheryl Pennington, James Winstanley, Colin Tyreman and Rachel Tyreman. Rachel, Mum, you have helped to change my fate every day of my life. Thank you.

I have had just two teachers throughout the course of my life who believed in me. They didn’t ignore me, they didn’t call me quiet and they gave me a voice.

Mr Terry Fell and Mr Phil Robinson.

You are the teachers I aspire to be every single day. You valued my contributions, made learning fun and inspired my creativity.

They believed I was the very best student and I have begun to believe I can be the very best teacher.I’m definitely not there yet but I’m not giving up because otherwise, all those other teachers who ignored my light and rendered me feeling like a failure will have won. That will not happen. That will not be my grammar school student’s fate and it will certainly not be my fate.

You see, that’s how I could unequivocally describe what his current fate is. He and I share an experience.

I was observed recently and by the end of the day had convinced myself it was a grade 4. All of it had been a failure.

It wasn’t a 1 but it was a 2. It wasn’t a failure.

My perceived failures will no longer haunt me they way they have done until now. I will believe in myself. Ripon Grammar School, you may have tried to make me ‘average’ and ‘quiet’ but I am not. I am extraordinary and I am amazing.

Teachers, this is a desperate plea. Never call your students quiet and never render them average. Their grades do not define them. Give your students a voice and do not dim their light.

These are some famous people who have been told, often by teachers, they would fail. They didn’t.

PS. Apologies for the SPG errors in this video… they aren’t mine!

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

One Response

  1. Hi Hannah. Joey Young here. I know we didn’t really speak that much in school and I may have even been a bit of a twat at times, but I randomly stumbled across this blog post when searching google for Mr Terry Fell (also my favourite teacher!).

    Great post, and hope you’re doing well! It’s crazy how different we look at life now.

    All the best happy xmas

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