The Beauty of FAILure

Collaboration Montage

TeachBoost continues to ask instructional coaches what tools they include in their instructional coaching toolbox as part of our series, "Your Coaching Toolbox"—resources, tips, and reflections for instructional coaches, by instructional coaches.

Joy DeFors, our returning guest blogger, was thrilled to share the "beauty of failure" when working with teachers as an instructional coach and how to use it as a means of feedback and growth.


oday’s teachers recognize how qualities like grit, critical thinking, and problem solving are essential for students as they become successful, lifelong learners capable of contributing meaningfully to our world. Educators design opportunities to explicitly teach those 21st century learning skills, they provide authentic learning experiences for students to practice and hone those skills, and they create accurate and fair assessments to measure the skills.

With learning experiences like these in place, it’s exciting to think about how creative and collaborative this generation of students will become when they enter the work field! Instructional coaching is the perfect place to help teachers refine their own 21st century learning skills.

Failing Forward

As instructional coaches, our primary goal is to aid teachers in reaching their own goals. But what happens when those goals aren’t achieved?  Do we chalk it up to failure and move on? My answer may surprise you at first, but I argue, Yes! Moreover, how we move on is the key. Moving on doesn't mean dropping the experience all together—moving on really means moving forward.

If you approach your coaching with a growth mindset, you understand that FAIL stands for: First Attempt In Learning. With a growth mindset in place while coaching, teachers realize that when they encounter a roadblock, it is not a dead end. Instead, that roadblock is viewed as an experience to embrace, ultimately leading to professional growth. It is in the moments of FAILure that we find our greatest opportunities for growth!

Schools that have a culture of growth mindset allow teachers to be fearless of FAILure. If educators avoid trying new things in their classrooms—settling with what is familiar instead-they are really choosing what is comfortable over what is necessary to stay relevant to students and limiting their potential professional growth. So again, yes! We do chalk it up to FAILure, and we move forward. We model failing forward when we recognize that failure is an opportunity to begin again—this time more intelligently because pitfalls are now evident ahead of time.

Where Coaches Come In

Coaches should assist teachers in occasionally embracing the presence and potential of FAILure so teachers can experience and grow from it. When educators experience and learn from FAILure, they become smarter, more persistent, and model the very grit we hope to instill in students. Embracing FAILure helps demonstrate the power of learning. It boldly illustrates the core belief that anything worth learning is worth the challenge because FAILure is feedback

So for the sake of your teachers and their students, encourage the transformational idea of failing forward in your coaching sessions. Help teachers feel safe to try things that are outside of their comfort zone. At worst, the lesson may flop, and we’ve all had those lessons. On the other hand, at best, you’ve helped to create a community of brave, educated, facilitating instructors who are re-inspired to guide students on their own paths of FAILures and successes!

About our Guest Blogger

Joy DeFors has been an instructional coach since 2016. Prior, she worked as a sixth, seventh, and eighth grade ELA teacher for eleven years within the same school district. She earned her B.A. in Secondary Education at DePaul University in 2003 and her M.A.Ed in Special Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2010. She believes that brains are like a muscle that grows, mistakes are opportunities for learning, and feedback is a gift.

Follow Joy on Twitter @MrsD4s!

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Topics: Guest Blogger, Coaching, Your Coaching Toolbox, Growth Mindset

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