The Fail Wall

Put up a wall in the lunch room where people can share their failures.

Photo of Mark Carlucci
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Update - Sep-7-2015 8:14 PM EST - I added a video of my classroom/fail wall setup.


Update - Sep-7-2015 2:50 PM EST

I have attached a few pictures of the my first iteration of the Fail Wall that I set up in my classroom. I just covered the bulletin board with white paper. I wrote a few quotes on failure and included a couple of my own failure contributions. My principal was interested in the project and will be adding his own contribution later today.

I have only had a chance to mention it to a couple colleagues, but no one seemed ready to join in. I think the word failure made them uneasy.

Since this is in my flipped math classroom, I made a video about it that I will be posting to YouTube for the students. I am interested to see what the students reactions will be when we start school tomorrow. I am hoping to spend some time discussing the concept of failure with them and slowly encourage them to share their own stories as time goes on.

I still unsure if it should be focused towards the class, school or life in general. I added a story that fits school and one that fits life. So starting it open and refining from there. 


Update - Aug-30-2015 5:11 PM EST - I think the implementation of this is starting to merge with my idea of One Change a Week, https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/evolve/one-change-a-week.

Rather than going all out and setting up the Fail Wall as a place to share it might be better to start of by using it to share quotes about failure and spend some time discussing those quotes. This is a time for those that are really interested in the initiative to try to become comfortable with failure and sharing their fears. Start small, maybe discussing little "hiccups." Build your discussion into something more significant. Keep the sharing group small so it is not as intimidating.

Once you and your group start to feel comfortable you can move onto sharing with the whole staff. Post some of your failures on the Wall and use a staff meeting as a chance to discuss them. If you are comfortable sharing it will help leave the others at ease and from here you can encourage them to share their failures on the board anonymously. 

Once people start to accept failure as a natural part of growth, encourage them to try new things (you do this too). It's OK to fail, so it is time to try things out, and if you fail, put it on the board. Keep everyone positive about it. Always congratulate the attempt, discuss it. Maybe it is something that can be corrected by sharing it and discussing it.

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Original

I had this idea of putting up a board in the lunch room where we could share our failures. Let others see we have tried, fail and survived to try again. It can be anonymous. People could be encouraged to share their thoughts on the failures one the board, make suggestions on ways to improve.

My initial idea was inspired thinking of my students that love watching videos of people screwing up and doing goofy things, to fail is bad, but an "epic fail" is OK. I was working on that idea when I came across Jeff Stibel's Failure Wall.

After I started doing some research I found: http://www.cnbc.com/id/46101756 and http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/27/local/la-me-beat-failure-wall-20130127. I thought this might be a more effective way to implement my idea and is something that is easy, straight forward and can be grown upon.

Update August 12, 9:52 PM (EST) - modified from my comment below - To get this project started, keeping multiple boards for different groups might be best. I would start with a staff/admin board. Keeping it in an area like a staff lunch/workroom, it would be easily accessible by any of the groups. 

At my school, I think putting it in the lunch room would be an excellent place. It would regularly be visible to teachers and could start discussions over lunch. It is common for meetings to be held in the lunch room, giving opportunities for administrators and other visitors to access the board and share their failures. I feel it would also be important to include all school staff, such as secretaries and custodial staff. I've had some lengthy discussions with the various support staff and learned a lot from their viewpoints.

After implementing it at a staff level, I would then bring it to the classroom. I'm not sure if it would be used the same way at the classroom level; different subjects and grade levels might approach it in different ways.

At some point it would be great to have an open board to share with the entire school community. Locate one in the foyer of each school and board building. Keeping the board out in the open for everyone to see and share is a key aspect. The Fail Wall will be most successful if it is in a prominent place, not tucked in a corner like something we are avoiding. 

I think that by sharing our failures it will help us overcome the fear associated with failure. Putting it up on the wall will allow us time to accept it, and that time will provide us with a chance to reassess the failure. I recently read this article, http://www.dyanwilliams.com/failures-screw-ups-and-unknowns/. And it made me think about the time needed to access. Our fear of failure partly stems from the doubt and anxiety it can bring with it. Because of this we push it away, avoid it. Putting that failure on the wall puts it out there to be remembered, you will steal a glance at it every once in a while. When you do, you will see it up there with all the other failures, and see that it isn't so bad. And it people can talk about them, maybe they aren't so scary. Steve Mouldey is on this in his idea about a Fail Club: https://teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/ideas/fail-club/

But it is not just about sharing our failures, but using them as a starting point for discussions. People should be encouraged to talk about what they read on the board and make suggestions on how to improve. To encourage this, meetings could be held to provide a forum for discussion on some items on the board. Even writing/typing out a suggestion and attaching it to the board could work. (The board should be magnetic.)

If their are some failures that peak the interest of several people, they can create a "Turnaround Team" that will work towards turning the failure into a success.

Moving it into the classroom will definitely have some differences. I am still brainstorming this part. Does it need to be themed towards the subject? Perhaps academics in general? Or maybe a general life board?

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Photo of Bob Weiman
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I thought of your post and the other ones about failure when I saw this awesome bulletin board outside one of our teacher's classrooms!
https://drive.google.com/a/sssas.org/file/d/0Bxnk_hDGtTWOLUpTM3pTaVdqTE0/view?usp=sharing

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