A "What I am reading and thinking about" post!
Having a positive and playful relationship to failure is an important ingredient in making! I have some very amusing video footage of our youth discussing the process of creating a perfect pressfit cube, advising each other that it takes at least 20 failures to really understand pressfit and produce a perfect pressfit cube. (It usually takes 4 or 5, but teenagers enjoy exageration. Smile.)
In Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn's work with youth of color and youth with families that live on low incomes, our participatory research has identified that our youth's complicated relationship to failure often presents a formidable obstacle.to their skill-building, project-building and making.
While all youth struggle with developing a positive and playful relationship with failure, our youth of color's struggle is complicated by the everyday behaviors and attitudes they encounter in people and institutions that are dysconsciously rooted in racism. Examples include attending public schools with few resources and low expectations for what they can achieve, relentless negative media about people who look like them, relentless microagressions (and macro-agressions like stop and frisk, high penalties in school for common teenage oppositional behavior), lack of access to maker or geek role models who look like them which often generates an "imposter syndrome" (interesting discussions about this can be found if you google articles about the remarkable success of Harry Mudd college in attracting women to STEM)
Too often, because of the impact of these behaviors and attitudes, our youth are reluctant to try new things or learn new things if they even think they might fail. I suspect that this is because the thought of adding one more failure to the constant messages they are up against is just too emotionally painful.
At L2TT2L we have collaborated with youth to create many strategies that give our youth opportunites to transform their relationship to failure. These ange from developing a supportive and loving culture of near peer and peer mentoring to teaching the engineering design process where failure is a source of insight for improving projects.
This morning, I read an article that was featured as a link in an OpenIDEO tweet. The ideas from the Co.Design blog about failure are intriguing. The strategy of presenting youth with opportunities to reflect on these questions around failure is one I would like to try in our daily circle-up reflection sessions: