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Failure Is Your Child’s Best Friend

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David Bayles and Ted Orland [from their book, Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (And Rewards) Of Artmaking] document a story about an art teacher who did an experiment with his grading system for two groups of students. It is an important life-lesson that teaches the incredible value in failures, an important and beneficial focus for our own lives and childrearing if applied each day. Here is what happened:

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the ‘quantity’ group: fifty pounds of pots rated an ‘A,’ forty pounds a ‘B,’ and so on. Those being graded on ‘quality,’ however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an ‘A.’
 
“Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.”  It seems that while the ‘quantity’ group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the ‘quality’ group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”  As children apply themselves to activities that are challenging it is inevitable they will make mistakes and perhaps feel like giving up. However, if we patiently encourage them to continue on, because it is the right thing to do when faced with an important activity, they too will learn the wonderful truth that quantity becomes quality in everything we do. 
 
photo credit: Salsa Pie Blog

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