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Embracing Failure and Working Outside Your Comfort Zone


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We hate to hear the word "failure," especially when it is related to students in school.  There is a great deal of pressure on students, teachers, even parents, to not fail.  But if you step back for a second, and really think about how we learn best, failure is part of that process.  

As babies, we all failed to walk on our first attempt.  We didn't stop trying.  We got back up, and took another step.

As teens and young adults, we didn't stop trying to play a sport, drive a car, create with a new hobby, or improve in our jobs just because we failed the first time.  

Failure in school is much the same way.  When we talk about embracing failure in Read Right, what we are talking about is how we use failing to help us get better at a skill.  If you visit our classroom, you will see a poster in class that suggests this:


On our poster, it is a cycle.  Here is what it gives our students--the opportunity to fail without shame.  We embrace when a student does not read excellently--because it means they have an opportunity to analyze how they can make improvements and do better work next time.  Making mistakes teaches us more about the skill we are trying to improve then getting it right every time ever will!

Our philosophy of Attempt, Fail, Analyze, Adjust encourages students to see a failure as a learning opportunity.  If they are not failing, they aren't really learning.  And if they feel they fail a lot, they MUST learn what to do with that failure to help them NOT fail the next time!  We don't base our grades for class on how many excellent reads students demonstrate each day.  We base our grades on how much effort they made to figure out why they are or are not getting excellent reads.  We want them to focus on what it is in the text that is challenging them.  We want the text TO CHALLENGE them enough to keep them interested and help them to grow.  

That is where Comfort Zones come in:  Students in Read Right are held in a very particular place in their reading level.  Text must be challenging enough to keep them engaged, but not so hard that it frustrates them.  We tell them we will take them one step out of their comfort zone because this is where the magic happens!  This is where TRUE LEARNING takes place.  We use this level of challenge to help their brains redevelop neural networks that have not always worked efficiently for them in the past.  We give them a challenge, and then give them the opportunity to practice at that level so their brains are doing implicit comprehension through explicit repetition. 

As a teacher of more than 17 years, with all of those years focused on trying to help students read better who struggled with reading every day, I will attest to the fact that I have not seen as much growth in a student's reading ability and confidence in any other system as I have seen in Read Right!  It is a joy and pleasure to record my students at the beginning of their experience with us, and again at the end of the experience, and watch their faces smile with pleasure and pride at their own growth!  

Read Right class is hard work for students.  They are engaged in this activity from the time the bell rings to start class until the bell rings to end class.  They gauge their own understanding for the whole class period.  They demonstrate their understanding.  They evaluate whether or not text is making sense.  They develop a better understanding of vocabulary.  They learn how to be comfortable with a skill that they may not have had confidence in before.  If they are strong readers, they work with an end in sight of being the best prepared reader they can possibly be.  It is a joy to watch them in class, and to hold them to the highest standard we can as we help them fail, learn, and grow to larger and more challenging comfort levels every day.