Stacked in Our Favor

Thoughts about libraries, education, children's literature, writing, art and being connected

Monday, April 19, 2010

Success or Failure?

I have just started reading I’d rather be in the studio: The artist’s no-excuse guide to self-promotion by Alyson B. Stanfield. A quick flip through the pages gives me the feeling that it will be a book full of information to underline and apply. For now I am contemplating page 2. She asks “Are you more afraid of failure or success?”

What if I answered that question myself? What if I asked my students to answer that question? What if I could know how a student who challenges me might answer that question? What if I have a character in a story ask this question? Would the way I approach my work/my life/my writing, change?

It’s a variation on a theme I’ve heard before. Yet the way Stanfield embeds it in her message is powerful. For the writer, the artist, the teacher, the librarian, the family member that I am, this question can transform me. Will I let it?

I have to ask myself how the fear of success may play into how some of my students deal with learning. Peer pressure is intense. Last week, I watched a group of boys groan when they heard we were going to read Cinderella. Some of the same boys were nearly jumping out of their seats minutes later to have a chance to tell what happened next in the story. When I had them vote by a show of hands, more boys indicated they enjoyed the Cinderella variation we read than those who felt differently. Not only did they feel they weren’t supposed to enjoy the story or know the answers, they certainly weren’t supposed to want the pair of glass slippers cut from paper. And yet one boy, oblivious to the scolding of the rest of them, openly showed he liked the whole thing. Boys aren’t supposed to remember fairy tales and girls aren’t supposed to be good at putting things together. Or so I have been told by the under 6 crowd lately.

This leads me to wonder what other things my students may be pulling back from engaging in. What cultural pressures make them fear to achieve? What personal experiences have made them feel unable to succeed and therefore not a player?

Sometimes I have to pry the answers from some of my students. I meet with success only when we are at the check-out counter and the room is too noisy for them to be noticed by others. What if those students were not afraid of either success or failure? What chances would they take?

If you are intrigued by Stanfield’s book you can find out more at I can’t wait to see what is in the rest of the book!


Katie said...

This reminds me of an assignment I did for a class about intelligence and how students view intelligence. It is so interested to see how students at a young age view their own intelligence. Many of my students viewed themselves as smart because they do well in school but I had one student say he was not school smart but he was intelligent because he knew a lot about birds and how to take care of them. I definitely will be taking a look at I'd Rather be in the Studio.

purple glasses club said...

The fact that your student can differentiate between "school smart" and "intelligence" is really amazing. I think it is intelligence that we ultimately need to instill in our students. When we embrace P21
or Standards for the 21st Century Learner
our goal is to assist our students become learners who can function in an ever changing world. It seems to me that intelligence, the confidence to succeed and desire to do so are the key ingredients to achieving that goal.

Dana said...

"What if those students were not afraid of either success or failure? What chances would they take?" This really is the crux of it all, isn't it? For students but also for all of us---taking risks without making value judgments about outcomes. You got me thinking! Thanks.

Alyson B. Stanfield said...

Lynda: I can tell you're an excellent teacher. And I'm glad you've found value in my book. Thank you for recommending it here.

purple glasses club said...

Thanks for your thoughts. The ideas keep flowing when we share them with each other.


You are very welcome. I have now read past page 3 in your book and have lots to say about how inspiring it is as well as how the information you provide can be useful to people in a variety of fields. I've been recommending it to others, but I will wait to post again until I'm farther along. :-)