Exploration of Personal Interests and Learning How to Fail Beautifully

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When students are provided the freedom to personalize their education, many are confused. After enough time enrolled in the education system, countless students develop learned helplessness and are therefore too afraid to move forward with the newfound freedom that works in conjunction with personalized learning.

I witnessed this firsthand when I enrolled in a class based on Google’s 20% time model my senior year of high school. In this class, we were encouraged to explore our interests, choose a project to focus on throughout the school year, and collaborate with professionals through social media sites. Though my peers were swept into the excitement of brainstorming for different innovative projects, more than half were unable to see a project through to its full fruition for a variety of reasons; namely, lack of motivation and direction on where to start and how to proceed. Many were stuck in the mud before even delving into the project of their choice because they had never been provided the opportunity to make their own decisions for their education. They lacked confidence in their own abilities, were unsure of their own interests, and were afraid to fail; thus, they didn’t even begin a project and instead used the class as a fifty-minute study hall.

Though our teacher spent one-on-one time with each student facing this problem, no progress was made in their taking control of their education and moving forward in the class. Nevertheless, learned helplessness can be overcome. As a student, the greatest advice I can give educators is to be persistent with continuous ideas that will hopefully rejuvenate the passion and inspiration for making education interesting to the student once again. Though it is ultimately the student’s responsibility and decision to choose to take control of their education, the educator can try to empower the student through inspiration for success.

One of the greatest gifts educators can give to students is the freedom to explore their own passions and the encouragement to make mistakes and fail beautifully. As I have learned, even the greatest failures can turn out to be the greatest blessings.

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