I want school to be _______.

 "I tried to create a climate in the room where everybody feels that they can contribute, that it's okay to fall on your face many, many times." - George Meyer, writer on The Simpsons

I asked a few school leaders the other day to fill in the blank:

I want school to be _________

The answer that really stood out…."to be a place to learn failure and innovate." And that really got me thinking.

Many school leaders feel it's important to establish a place of safety for students. In extreme cases, students face violent gang-controlled streets. In others, the effects of cyber bullying and competition caused by standardized tests force students to be afraid of failing.

But, what if we changed that? True innovation comes after failing first. Just ask Thomas Edison or Michael Jordan and they'll agree. 

So, how do we start building up a school culture that gets students excited to try new thoughts, see failure as growth, and push through failure to stand taller than ever?

After all, school should be the place where the effects of failure can be minimal. Students won't get fired by a boss, lose that needed paycheck for the mortgage, or be ridiculed by popular media. School is the safety net for failure, but most school leaders fear stringing up the net. 

No need to take my word for it. Psychologists call this term psychological safety. It's the zone where risk taking is nurtured and students openly share new ideas. The innovative companies that students hope to get jobs at practice this daily. That's why Google and Apple don't need to worry about a diminishing applicant pool. 

Students crave a school culture to try out new mind-binding ideas. Why else do you think they play so many video games? (Tweet this!)


So, teach them the power of failure. Push your own limits as a school leader and share your failures while celebrating your triumphs. Ask your staff to have students share their failures through the security of writing. This level of reflecting will only have you, your students, and your staff grow.

Yes, I am asking you to do something that pushes boundaries and will make waves. But, you don't need me to tell you. Take your own permission.