Farewell to Failure February (Embrace the Failure)

a tree that spoke to me

In the northern hemisphere, where the winters are long, and our children attend school from September to June, February can be a cruel month. Students are lethargic, parents are weary, teachers visit the liquor store.

I’ve been wondering why this is the case. What makes this time of year so debilitating? No doubt, the weather, vitamin D deficiencies, and general burnout that the September to January track meet can elicit has something to do with it. Still, does that really explain why?

I think it’s because February is the month of Failure. It’s the time in the year when we really discover if something is working or not. If you tried something new, however minor or major, you’ll know if it is turning out as you had hoped, or if it’s a wounded animal who needs to be put out of its misery. February is the test of an educator’s mettle. That relationship you were trying to build? It’s getting there, or it’s worse than ever. The initiative you were trying to spearhead? People gently hopped on the train or never even came to the station. The Twitter trend that all the eduspeakers are raving about that you really wanted to bring to fruition? The reality is staring you in the face.

On Wednesday, while walking to school with my daughter, I had the kind of personal epiphany that can only come about because of the wonders of our natural environment. I couldn’t remember the last time wet, heavy snow had fallen in such a way that every tree branch, all evergreen needles, and each whisker on your grandpa’s beard were coated in thick, wet, glistening snow. It resembled something only the White Witch from Narnia could have summoned. My daughter and I kept saying to one another, isn’t it funny how beautiful ‘bad weather’ can be?

The unusual beauty that I saw as February was fading out like one of those Neil Young guitar solos that goes a bit too long reminded me to embrace the failure. Look at it as a positive, not a degradation of your worth and purpose. You tried some things and discovered they are very, very difficult. Maybe it’s time you abandoned this idea. Perhaps you need to change track with that project. Your recognition of this is a strength, not a weakness.

Embrace, accept, and use February’s reminders of failure. March on with your head held high (I apologize profusely for that last pun; I tried with all my might to prevent it, but it overcame me).

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9 Comments

  1. Dear Royan,
    I enjoyed reading this post because it is refreshing and “real.” We don’t often hear other educators speak of the failures, the burnout, the realization that some ideas need to be abandoned etc., in their blog posts. After attending the CIRR conference and just reading your post, I have learned (as a first year contract teacher) that failure and reflection are necessary if one wants to grow as an educator and “March on with your head held high.”

    Sincerely,

    Melanie Chocron-Abalos

    1. Hey Melanie, thanks for comment. I think our bigger vice in education is the way we equate our worth with perfection, when it’s the least perfect industry on earth.

  2. I feel your pain. And you’re right — we all get a bit bummed out at this time of year. Spring is coming, but it’s not here yet… rejuvenation is on the way. I appreciate our semester system in February since it allows for a fresh start with new students and classes at the beginning of the month, and we have March break as a sort of ‘treat break’ the following month.

    Teachers visit the liquor store? 🙂

  3. Royan:

    I love you. You live on my planet, and in February, I need to know things like that . February is from hell for me – lack of sunshine, kids and I are lethargic and blecchy. This is when I have my yearly existential crisis about whether I really want to spend the rest of my teaching career as the (sometimes) irrelevant punching bag that is the Core French teacher, or if I want to try (impossibly) to advocate for my own classroom. It is the time when my failures (and failings) stare me in the face, and I have to deal with that. It was Thursday morning here, and smaller boy and I dodged snowfalls from trees with glee all the way to school.

    Yes, Colleen, teachers visit the liquor store (or raid the chocolate drawer way more than usual) 🙂

  4. Inspiring perspective. This is the first Feb. in 15 years that I am not teaching and I can tell you, I know the feeling exactly and your ideas are easily applied to life in general. Embrace the recognition of failure and move forward, crocuses are showing their happy heads!

  5. Can I just say ditto to everything lisamnoble said (except I am an extended, not core, teacher). Royan, twice today you’ve shared something that has made me laugh, but more importantly has made me realize I am not the only feeling the crazy way I am feeling these days. Thank you! Really, truly thank you.

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