Sunday, July 2, 2017

US students can now take a course in how to fail

Jul 02 2017 : The Times of India (Chennai)
US students can now take a course in how to fail

Syllabi designed to build student resilience, reduce fear of failure
Last year, during fall orienta tion at Smith College, and then again recently at final exam time, students who wan dered into the campus hub were faced with an unfamiliar situation: the worst failures of their peers projected onto a large screen. “I failed my first college writing exam,“ one student revealed.The faculty , too, contributed stories of screwing up. “I failed out of college,“ a popular English professor wrote.“Sophomore year. Flat-out, whole semester of F's on the transcript, bombed out, washed out, flunked out.“ “I drafted a poem entitled `Chocolate Caramels,' “ said a literature and American studies scholar, who noted that it “has been rejected by 21 journals so far.“
This was not a hazing ritual, but part of a formalized program at the women's college in which participants more accustomed to high test scores and perhaps a varsity letter consent to having their worst setbacks put on wide display .
The presentation is part of a new initiative at Smith, “Failing Well,“ that aims to “destigmatize failure.“
With workshops on impostor syndrome, discussions on perfectionism, as well as a campaign to remind students that 64% of their peers will get (gasp) a B-minus or lower, the program is part of a campuswide effort to foster student “resilience,“ to use a buzzword of the moment.
“What we're trying to teach is that failure is not a bug of learning, it's the feature,“ said Rachel Simmons, a leadership development specialist in Smith's Wurtele Center for Work and Life and a kind of unofficial “failure czar“ on campus. “It's not something that should be locked out of the learn ing experience. For many of our students -those who have had to be almost perfect to get accepted into a school like Smith -failure can be an unfamiliar experience. So when it happens, it can be crippling.“
When students enroll in her program, they receive a certificate of failure upon entry , a kind of permission slip to fail. It reads: “You are hereby authorized to screw up, bomb or fail at one or more relationships, hookups, friendships, texts, exams, extracurriculars or any other choices associated with college ... and still be a totally worthy, utterly excellent human.“ A number of students proudly hang it from their dormitory walls.

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