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Permission to Fail . . . and Succeed

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in

my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games.

26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why

I succeed.

Michael Jordan

When my son, Benjamin, was in a general education kindergarten class, the teacher, Mrs. S, was uncomfortable having a child with a disability in her class. Despite lots of support from me, and the special education staff, she seemed content to let Benjamin “be” in her class, so long as she didn’t have to exert any effort to help him learn. Which, of course, is exactly what happened: he wasn’t learning, even though I knew he could.

During an informal meeting with Mrs. S and the supportive principal, I told her, “I know my son can learn, and I know you can teach him, but you have to be willing to try new things. I trust you enough to put my son in your care every day. You have to trust me enough to know that you can call me and say, ‘Today was a disaster—nothing worked!’ Then you and I can figure it out together. My husband and I need to do this all the time. But if you don’t give my son the opportunity to learn—by trying new things to see what works—he won’t learn!”

Things got better after that. She was willing to try: she took risks and learned from mistakes, and that enabled her to teach my son. The principal later said to me, “You gave Mrs. S ‘permission to fail,’ and everyone needs that. Before, she was unwilling to try things because she was afraid of failing; you let her know you didn’t expect her to be perfect, and that enabled her to get out of her comfort zone and feel more confident about trying new things.” ​Click here to continue.