I may be one of the biggest failures I know. Seriously, if I truly take a look at my goals from high school and compare them to where I am now, perhaps no other word better describes my journey into adulthood. Like most male teenagers, I aspired to be a professional athlete after high school. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind I would average 20 plus points per game at the D1 college of my choosing and be declared a top 10 pick in the NBA draft. I was the star-studded athlete, the basketball star making the headlines game after game, and the Dunk Contest champ! Even at a standing height of 5’10 nothing would stand in my way.
That is… except for my ZERO college scholarship offers, and the statistical odds of making it to the pros more liken to that of winning the Powerball. To really rub it in my face, my best friend actually did make it to the major leagues in baseball, another of my close childhood friends made it to the MLS (Major League Soccer) and one of my high school playoff rivals ended up becoming the #1 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft (perhaps you’ve heard of one Dwight Howard).
I mention this to emphasize the rather large disappointment one might feel 6 years later when they are scraping by on the salary of high school math teacher compared to the bloated salaries of today’s pro athletes. My 2-week paycheck is almost the equivalent of a pro athlete’s weekly meal money allowance. Yes, failure seems the appropriate descriptor.
Be that as it may, I’ve managed to find a deeper purpose to my life than repeatedly throwing a spherical object into a hanging basket. I’ve found the rewards of perseverance in the face of failure to be real and satisfying. As a new teacher 6 years ago, the feeling of failure haunted me daily. I felt inadequate, subpar, and helpless in many ways. The task of a high school teacher is a tall one. We are literally asked to provide a product (education) to clients (students) who are diametrically opposed to receiving said product.
It wasn’t until my 3rd year on the job that I tried an outside the box approach to my teaching practice that has now turned into a family business. You see, it’s the failures that shape us and challenge us to think differently. They force us to examine our ways and adjust accordingly. If we learn from them, they become our guide.
Years have passed since swallowing that bitter pill of disappointment and I’ve since come to understand a profound truth. Failure is only failure when you fail to learn from it. What if you didn’t see your failures as failures at all, but instead, more like your teachers? Through failure, we not only learn what we are not, but we learn who we truly are. With the right perspective, you will learn that you are stronger than you ever knew.
Perhaps you’ll find that you have more options than seems initially apparent. Through enduring hardship and disappointment we attain the ability to relate with our fellow man and perhaps identify solutions to problems we never knew existed. Begin to tackle those problems through various attempts and don’t be afraid to fail! Why would you ignore your best teacher? As long as you learn from the failures, you’ll learn what not to do again as well as what to continue to do. This process is the key to any success. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary. It will bring you toward true solutions which, if played right, open up life’s greatest opportunities.
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