Thursday, February 2, 2012

On Defeat

My son is taking ceramics in school.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this.  He has an opportunity to be creative and play with an unfamiliar medium (why is it that mama always gets most excited about the arts -- cooking, sewing, ceramics, creative writing?).

His final project was a tea pot.  A gorgeous tea pot.  There was only one eensy problem.  The handle broke.  He thought he could glue it but then another student came by and broke it even further.  Beyond repair.

He brought the pot home today and I have to admit -- I'm enamored.  I especially love the lid with its brown patina and hint of green where it meets the yellow knob (I'm struggling to get a good photo here in my winter dark kitchen but trust me -- it's charming).

This broken tea pot is a thing of beauty and it will have a forever home on my windowsill.  What makes me sad is that this pot must receive a grade.   Grading this creative effort seems so silly.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  But there is no shame in making mistakes.  There is no shame in failure.  How else is one to learn?  And who are we to place judgment?  And to what end?

Certainly I understand a grade for participation.  Did you show up?  Did you try?  Did you learn?  A resounding yes?  Then A++.   

And this makes me wonder.  What is the point of grading at all.  Why are we labeling our children and shaming them for the very thing from which they learn?   Mistakes are a glorious teaching tool.  The point is to recognize them, rethink and try again.  There is no disgrace in error.  And, at least in my mind,  all defeat is temporary.  The shame lies in not dusting off your hands to try and try again.

"There is no such thing as failure. There are only results".

Of course we need to know where the errors lie.  Sometimes they are obvious like a broken tea pot handle.  Other mistakes are more covert like a missed decimal point.  So perhaps I'm not so much against the grading as the labeling.

Mistakes are simply an opportunity to learn.  To be bigger and better than before.

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

So to all of you who have tried something, reached for that star and met defeat -- know this:  I am proud of you.  So proud and happy that you were willing to put yourself out there.  Proud that you were willing to try.  Take a moment.  Soak in the experience.  Process it and learn.  Then get up and try again. 



Anonymous said...

someone gifted this to me today.. and well it seemed appropriate..
By the way as a potter and a teacher of pottery, it's an A+
~just saying~


Anonymous said...

for some reason when I switched to anonymous, it deleted the link...

Sarah {The Student Knitter} said...

I agree, grading is so hard. I'm in my last semester at college too and I frequently lament the fact that in school we are always trying to create and enforce the idea of winners and losers. In art, I just don't think that's as feasible as in my chosen major, math.

I hope you keep it forever!

Deeapaulitan said...

That is one of the great joys of having homeschooled the kids. They received grades for things that were measurable (2+2 ONLY equals 4... 2 is spelled ONLY two ...). When it came to the creative, the play, the immeasurable I only counted hours, devotion - joy. They never cower from creating as a result. Unlike their mama. They look at life as a "what else can I do?", instead of "wonder what others will think of this?" So blessed that THAT was the outcome of our years of training.
Eli has you as a mama, & John as a papa. Both of you try new things, both of you succeed and flop, both of you give it another go. You are raising him to be a man who does the same. No matter what grade someone at the front of the classroom gives him.

Amy said...

It's funny...I'm a public school teacher and have long lead the charge AGAINST grades. As a district, we've had inquiry groups and done research and the majority of us would love to eradicate grades. Where we have the biggest push back is from parents, unbelievably. "If you don't grade my child, how will I know how he's doing?" "Without grades, how will my child get into college?" They don't realize that it is when we do ungraded learning in class, THAT is when their kids get excited and really start creating and learning on a whole different level. So, I am with you 100% on grading and it's stifling of creativity and risk-taking!