Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dealing With Disappointment

How do your students deal with disappointment or failure? Hopefully better than some sports fans. Sunday I watched the New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots in the Superbowl. Not really a fan of either team, I enjoyed the game as a close hard fought contest, watching two teams duel it out down to the final play. Perhaps even more interesting  however, has been the response of some Patriots fans to the defeat. As reported by ESPN their disappointment has reached ridiculous levels. Some have turned on their team, condemning their coach, their quarterback and several of their star players as losers and choke artists; this despite the fact that the team had enjoyed a superb 13 - 3 record and provided its fans with hundreds of thrilling hilites over the course of the season.

Vancouver Canuck fans underwent a similar wave of emotion last spring when their team narrowly missed winning the Stanley Cup. Forgetting all accomplishments of the previous eight months, fans spewed forth venom blaming the team's stars and coaching staff for choking when they felt it mattered most.  It wasn't good enough to have posted outstanding results over a long period of time. When it came to the crunch, winning that last game was all that truly mattered.

We often see sports as a metaphor for life. If this is true, what do such reactions say about the way children are prepared to deal with disappointments or their own failures? One British school is attempting to teach students to deal with adversity by offering a week long workshop in failure. Failure Week at Top Girls School To Build Resilience describes a program that has students explore their feelings and fears around failure in a way that allows them to cope with and learn from personal set backs.

When education systems over emphasize the need for high grades and top test results, they may generate students ill equipped to deal with tough times. Rather than learning to face their fears, or learn from their failures, students can disengage, quit, or, like disenchanted sports fans, turn on the system, blaming it for failing to deliver their hoped for level of success. Setting realistic expectations and equipping students to deal with, and learn from, disappointments should be a goal for all educators! Resilient and resourceful citizens who can deal with life's challenges make the world a better place! As for disenchanted sports fans - get over it!  It's only a game! (and there's always next year!)

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