Tuesday 28 February 2017

Failure can be liberating in a culture where perfection is the goal

Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs
The late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs

We are accustomed to schools teaching their pupils how to succeed, but Heather Hanbury, the Belfast-born headmistress of Wimbledon High School for girls, has introduced a real innovation: teaching her pupils how to fail.

Each year since 2012, the independent Wimbledon school – which has more than 900 pupils aged four to 18 – celebrates a "Failure Week", whereby girls learn that it is not only all right to fail, but sometimes it's necessary to fail in order to learn.

Guests are invited to the school to tell their failure stories, and there are uplifting narratives about famous failures (James Joyce's 33 rejections for 'Dubliners', might be a case in point). Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb after 256 failed attempts, is upheld as a template. Teachers and parents also recount their own failure stories at assembly.

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