‘Failure week’ at top girls’ school to build resilience

‘Failure week’ at top girls’ school to build resilience

By Judith Burns Education reporter, BBC News

Pupils on results day Headmistress Heather Hanbury said “Failure Week” should teach high performing pupils not to shun risk

A top girls’ school is planning a “failure week” to teach pupils to embrace risk, build resilience and learn from their mistakes.

The emphasis will be on the value of having a go, rather than playing it safe and perhaps achieving less.

Pupils at Wimbledon High School will be asked how they feel when they fail.

The headmistress, Heather Hanbury, said she wanted to show “it is completely acceptable and completely normal not to succeed at times in life.”

Ms Hanbury’s pupils achieve some of the highest exam scores – but from Monday they will be invited to focus on failure.

There will be workshops, assemblies, and activities for the girls, with parents and tutors joining in with tales of their own failures.

There will be YouTube clips of famous and successful people who have failed along the way and moved on.

The emphasis will be discussions on the merits of failure and on the negative side of trying too hard not to fail.

‘Courage in the classroom’

Ms Hanbury told BBC News that she had placed a great emphasis on developing resilience and robustness among the girls since she arrived at the school four years ago.

“The girls need to learn how to fail well – and how to get over it and cope with it,” she said.

“Fear of failing can be really crippling and stop the girls doing things they really want to do.

“The pupils are hugely successful but can sometimes overreact to failure even though it can sometimes be enormously beneficial to them.

“We want them to be brave – to have courage in the classroom,” she added.

Wimbledon High is an independent school, part of the Girls’ Day School Trust.

GDST chief executive, Helen Fraser, said: “Resilience is so important in working life these days.

“Wimbledon High School is showing how making mistakes is not necessarily a bad thing, that it is fine to try – and fail – and then pick yourself up and try again – or as Samuel Beckett said, ‘fail better’.”


Contrasting Views of the Crusades in 6th Grade History

As a concluding activity for our study of the Crusades, students have been working in pairs to read about and represent the viewpoint of an historical character involved in one of the Crusades. There are Christian, Muslim, and Jewish people the students have read about. We will then have a “roundtable” meeting of different participants related to the Crusades. Each pair will give a short presentation about their person. We hope to understand the various viewpoints of the Crusades. Every pair of students has been assigned one of nine people who lived during the Crusades or participated in them  Each pair must be able to:

  1. Understand the viewpoint of the historical figure accurately and thoroughly and present it to the class.
  2. Explain the character’s viewpoint on the Crusades to the class.
  3. Explain whether the character’s actions were justified.
  4. Devise questions to ask other figures.

Students have been given two class periods to prepare together, and for homework, they have read over the background information about their person.

This activity involves collaboration with a fellow student to effectively represent a particular viewpoint, and critical thinking skills, because the students must figure out how to make their particular viewpoint be reasonable, but also learn about other viewpoints and question the other paricipants. At the end of this activity the students should be able to appreciate better how the Crusades affected people’s lives, and decide whether the actions of the participants were justified.

You are there in Ancient China

My fifth grade students are beginning their Chinese Webquest projects.  The students use the Publisher program’s newsletter format and write three articles on topics in ancient Chinese history.  This year they will write their articles from a ‘you are there,’ perspective.  For instance, they will write an article about the Great Wall as if they had worked on it.  This means that the students have to use the information they found while doing their research to write a firsthand account of what it was like to be a laborer on the Great Wall.  For their second article, the students must choose one Chinese leader from a list.  After doing some research they will write up an interview with this emperor or empress. They will have to think critically about the information they found and use it to ask informed questions and compose fact based responses.  For the third article the students will research an invention made in ancient China.  In their articles the students will explain how this new invention has improved or changed their lives as if they were living in ancient China.  Asking students to use the facts they find and relate them to a particular situation forces them to think critically about the information. Writing a firsthand account also makes it much harder for students to copy information right from websites, rearrange it and submit it as their own work.

Drama Collaboration

My drama students are writing scenes in English for Mrs. Slattery’s Spanish class and Ms. Mund’s French class, which the girls will translate into both Spanish and French. My drama students will collaborate with the students who are performing by helping direct the scenes. I have just completed a collaboration with Kim Raisbeck on a presentation which centered on the life of Harriet Tubman and her creation of the underground railroad.

Ban on public smoking in 7th grade history!

Following an introduction to and discussion of the US Constitution’s Preamble, the girls were given a scenario in which their local Congressman was considering a proposed bill to ban smoking in all public areas.  The girls were divided into various interest groups and had to consider their position on the bill and present an argument for or against passage to present to their Congressman at a Town Hall meeting.  After all the presentations, the Congressman would decide either to vote yes or no on the bill and explain his/her position.

One group represented the tobacco industry, another represented citizens in favor of better health for all, a third represented individual rights, a fourth represented a smoke-free nation, and the final group acted as the Congressman and his/her staff.  Essentially, the groups had to decide if an individual right or the common welfare was more important in this scenario.  By the end, all four classes chose to vote yes to ban smoking in public places as it benefitted the common good, but two chose to compromise!

What was particularly interesting was the struggle some had in setting aside their personal opinions if they were assigned to a group with which they didn’t agree.   Some surprised themselves with how they could appreciate both sides–the need for individuals to have the right to make choices, even if they were bad for their health, or the need to remain employed to feed one’s family vs. the responsibility to consider what is best for all.

Overall, it was a fun learning experience for the students, and it set the stage for further discussions about the Bill of Rights and later amendments to the Constitution.