Cardi B said (sang) it best,”Knock me down nine times, but I get up ten.”

Struggle and failure are not normalized enough in classrooms. It is not common to be great at something the first time; it is even normal to fail a few times before succeeding. Students, especially first-year composition students, need to be reminded that struggling and failing is a part of improving themselves and their writing. Simply, Rose states, “writers must struggle” (60). This is especially true when tackling writing that is entirely new. It is not a secret to anyone (except high school students and college freshman), that college writing is extremely different than the writing that is done in high school (Seriously, why doesn’t anyone warn them?) In fact, it would be easier to point out the differences than similarities. Due to these discrepancies, “there is no way we can expect them [college freshman] to be able to intuit these shifting conditions” (Brooke and Carr 63). At a time where students are likely to be very frustrated with the feeling of “starting over,” it is crucial to remind them that “all writers always have more to learn about writing” (Rose 59). It is perfectly acceptable to struggle through new content. It is perfectly acceptable to fail. In fact, “the opportunity to try, to fail, and to learn from those failures [can lead to] intellectual growth (Brooke and Carr 63). The requirements of writing will continue to change through the course and each time new writing techniques will need to be adapted. Reminding students of this fact and also emphasizing that even as a professor you are still learning, could help put the students at ease (at least a little bit).

Failure is common even beyond the classroom. Students will continue writing throughout their lives in their profession and other small tasks, such as emails or reports. It is not expected to complete these tasks perfectly right away (or ever). Brooke and Carr highlight the fact that “outside the classroom, the capacity for failure (and thus success) is one of the most valuable abilities a writer can possess (63). Students and writers alike must learn to accept failure as a part of the process of improving. Even if students do not like writing or consider themselves writers, they can take this thought-process and apply it to any outlet in their life, whether it be another subject or a sport, for example. There are many well-known people who failed greatly before reaching success, including Walt Disney and Theodor Seuss Giesel (Dr. Seuss).

I definitely want to create a classroom environment where struggle is welcomed. I don’t want students to feel the pressure to be perfect and succeed immediately. Encouraging students to try new tasks is more important than reiterating the need to perfectly complete a task. “Why Being A Failure Is A Good Thing” discusses the effects of allowing failure. Sporoles recalls a time when an interviewer asked, ” “How do you ever learn it all? There’s so much and it changes so fast,” and she replied, “You don’t. You continue to study and learn” (para. 1). I will be sure to emphasize this idea to my students. The learning never ends. Writing can always be improved upon. If students can look at their professors and see that they are still learning new writing skills, the students may be able to have a more positive outlook on their struggles and failures.

Works Cited

6 thoughts on “Normalize the Struggle

  1. Hey Peyton,

    I think failure is an inevitable part of any process, especially writing. As professors, maybe we could have chances for students to submit drafts for peer review that will not impact their grade. This emphasizes the process element of writing, encourages classroom engagement, and does not emphasize the final product.

  2. HI Peyton,
    I agree that failure is a part of life, and that all of us need to know how to get back up, not only the 10th time, but the 11th, 12th, or however many it takes. I do think that freshman comp classes are a good place for some experimentation and the chance to “fail.” However, these should be on low stakes assignments. Unfortunately, what the students, parents, other professors, administration, and even future employers will ultimately looking for are the grades. We, as teachers, will need to find a way to give them the courage to fail while giving them the tools to (hopefully) ensure their ultimate success.

  3. Peyton,

    I wholeheartedly agree that failure is crucial in all aspects of growth, especially as a writer. You say you want to normalize struggle (and potentially failure) in your classroom. How do you plan to do this in a way that doesn’t create a negative association with writing for students?

  4. I think emphasizing learning over the grade is important. Writing reflective pieces on mistakes and changes in drafts could also be helpful. I am open to more suggestions.

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