The key to helping students overcome fear of failure is in helping them change their perception. I can reassure my kids numerous times that there is no monster in our house. However, their perception causes them to doubt and forget my reassurance. The same can be true with students. Often, students entered my classroom saying things like, “I’m not good at social studies” or “I don’t do well on tests.” Statements like these come from a place of fear. The fear of trying and failing can be paralyzing. As leaders, we have a responsibility to help those students stand up to this fear. The school year would not be a success if students didn’t learn, grow and try new things. Fear can threaten this success if it doesn’t go unchallenged. Here are 5 tips you as you renew your commitment to helping students overcome fear of failure:
1. Stress Preparation and offer structure
Remind the students that if you don’t prepare, to expect a good outcome would be comparable to depending on luck. To prove this point, I would use a random number generator and ask the student to guess which number would pop up. The purpose of this exercise is to show students why depending on luck for something so important is a bad idea.
2. Talk about failure
You as the leader set the tone with your words. Helping students overcome fear of failure is not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight, but the students take their cue from you. Be open and honest with students about your experience with failure and the feelings you had at the time. Don’t pretend. Talk about the feelings associated with it. This helps students learn to improve their Emotional Intelligence and equips them with the tools they need to bounce forward after disappointment.
3. Encourage them not to judge too soon
Students who react to failure with frustration and anxiety should not make any final judgement about themselves or their ability so soon after the experience. Help them to remove the emotion from the equation by encouraging them to wait to assess the situation and learn from feedback. By helping them focus on facts (feedback), you can help them to focus on possibilities instead of on the pain/feelings that may come with failure. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also a great approach to help students deal with the emotions in a more construction way.
4. Remind them that success happens in cycles
Success doesn’t just happen. This seems like common knowledge, but some students need reminders that success requires investments over time. Success is filled with starts, stops and delays. The most important thing is to get closer to the goal with each attempt, assignment, and assessment.
I’m curious to hear your tips for helping students overcome fear of failure. Please leave your tips in the comments section below. If you are looking for ready made resources to reference as you aim to instill a growth mindset within your students, I suggest you check out The Growth Mindset Classroom-Ready Resource Book: A Teacher’s Toolkit for Encouraging Grit and Resilience in All Students. Lastly, feel free to use the video below to help students understand just how damaging fear can be to their success.