Is failure always a bad thing? I think we all know the answer to that. However, whether consciously or unconsciously, the fear of failure might be telling us a lot about who we are and how we can turn that fear into a constructive element in our lives. If you are in the mood for an introspective discussion, watch author Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) talk about what failure has done for her.
As I listened to Gilbert’s talk, I found myself sifting through my memories for failures that became life-altering moments. It also reminded me of the discomfort of realizing that I had made a mistake, and how sometimes I failed at failing. That is to say, I didn’t reflect, I didn’t change. Instead, I filled those moments away never to think about them again.
But now that I am a mother, I witness how my children deal with failure and mistakes. It’s not always fun to watch them squirm and even harder to help them realize what went wrong and how to move forward. To soften the lesson, I find myself digging into my past only to find a treasure trove of my own embarrassments, imperfections and hurts (some caused and some received). I use these to tell them about my own mistakes–to model how being honest with yourself and others might be uncomfortable, but full of great learning experiences. In some respects, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, if you can stomach the process of listening to it.
Do a tell back of the main points in Gilbert’s presentation.
Are there elements in Gilbert’s presentation that relate to your life?
Do you have successes and failures that have marked your life?
How have your successes and failures defined your path? In other words, where might you be today if things were different?
Do you have an activity that you love more than anything that transcends the need to succeed or the fear of failure?
Language focus: action verbs, causal linking words
Do you like independent films? I think it’s a good habit to break away from mainstream films and explore some of the messages in indie films. Often I find myself conditioned by an expectation of a happy ending. I even find myself expecting it in my life. When it doesn’t it feels odd.
Movies Shape our Psyche
Does the dedicated athlete always take home the gold? Does the couple always live happily ever after? Does the cancer fighter always beat the sickness? Does the lost dog always find its way home? In movies, often yes, but in real life not so much. Do you think we feel more cheated of these defeats because we have developed a distortion of reality?
The Eye of the Beholder
Here are a couple of short thought-provoking wordless animations that you can use to elicit some discussion. You can start by identifying all the action verbs. When I taught it, students saw different things. It was rather personal.
Then, if your students like introspective analysis, there is an opportunity to talk about the symbolism in the videos. In my experience, this sort of thing can either prompt a great philosophical discussion or fall flat. It really depends on the people you are working with.
The films are wordless, so you can use them with basic level students and stick to identifying the action verbs included in the handout. If you are working with a higher level, then you could ask them to note when the actions occur. Or better yet why the character does the action. And for the higher levels, you can go deeper and explore character motivation, how failure can create opportunity and how we cope with hardship. It’s a pretty elastic lesson.
Personally, I wanted to be a teacher, a veterinarian, a filmmaker, a programmer, a social worker and then a teacher again. The prospect of choosing one single thing was super hard for me. But choose I did, and I never felt entirely happy doing what I was doing.
Is it possible that we don’t have one true calling? That we have more than one talent? One gift? That is the question that Emilie Wapnick asks her TED audience. She is a self-proclaimed “multipotentialite” which is to say, she has many potential careers and gifts.
I must say I got a little emotional watching this talk. I too am someone who has been constantly looking for my one true thing. Wapnick’s premise of the multipotentialite is a very freeing concept that really got my students thinking and talking (and using lots of job and skills related vocabulary).
Today I am a teacher who programs games, uses film and the web to build materials. Many of my students have alternative learning profiles like dyslexia and executive processing issues. I am considered an informal dog whisperer and on the weekends, I go horseback riding with my two daughters. So, somehow my multi-potentials came to fruition. How about you? When you compare what you wanted to do to and what you chose, did you find room for everything or did you concentrate on a few of your interests?
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
If it changed, why did it change?
Have you changed your areas of interest as you grew older?
Why is it ok for children to have many career paths, but adults must choose one?
The Video: Ted why some of us don’t have one true calling by Emilie Wapnick
Post Video Discussion
You can use this handout to help the students focus their attention on certain areas of the talk. Remember, you can slow the video down and add subtitles if it helps. First, do a Tell Back.
Do you see yourself in Emilie’s concept of mulitipotentialite?
What is the problem of the “narrowly focused life”?
What are some of the problems Emilie encountered (4:00)?
What are the multipotentialite’s “superpowers” (6:30)?
What are the advantages of exploring all our interests?
How are those skills relevant in today’s job market?
Even though I know how to stand up for myself, it is not my favorite thing to do. It will inevitably cause awkwardness perhaps even anger. I might be perceived and agressive or unreasonable.
Yet, we all have to deal with conflicting view points at some time or another. Perhaps some have to deal with it every day. Heck , some make a career of it.
That’s why I like this article from Thrive Global (Ariana Huffington‘s wellness publication). In it there are practical tips on how to deal with relationship conflict. The article is nicely organized, well supported and each part succinct. It makes for a great Tell Back article and probably a few anecdotes.
How are you with conflict? Are you more a fighter or lover?
Do you have any moments (perhaps not too personal) where you have had to stand up for yourself?
The Article: 9 Ways do Deal with Relationship Conflict
Take each of the 9 points and pull out the main recommendation
Are there any recommendations that you disagree with?
Are there any that you see yourself adopting?
Is there a pattern or something that each recommendation has in common?
Success is a looming goal that can drive us, but also plague us. It can be defined in so many ways. Money, fame, happiness, many things can be considered hallmarks of success, but are we chasing the wrong things? Also, how does our culture define success? Do you think this might be driving us unconsiously?
Without a doubt, success is important. No one strives to fail. But this drive can sometimes create unhealthy life choices and lead us to prioritize the wrong things. In Alain de Botton TED talk, he exposes his struggle with success and some of the elements that may shape our choices.
Name someone you consider successful?
What makes them successful? Money, fame, happiness?
Put the following elements in order of priority: happiness, family, work, relaxing, spouse, exercise, health
How is our relationship with success unhealthy?
The Video: TED A Kinder, Gentler, Philosophy of Success by Alain de Botton
Divide the presentation into 5 min segments and do a Tell Back
First 5 min: What is snobbery according to Botton?
5-10 min: What is meritocracy? How might it be destructive?
10-15 min: What can literary tragedy teach us? Why does nature attract us?
If you have time, I would suggest doing a Mind Map of the main elements that contribute to our notion of success. Perhaps group them according to those that are good and bad.
TED features Joachim de Posada’s presentation of the famous “marshmallow” test done children. It is a test that claims to predict the success of those children through their ability to delay gratification.
I won’t go into great detail about the test because the video only last about 5 min. I will say this, although this test makes me feel a little uncomfortable, I think it makes an interesting discussion.
Do you consider yourself a patient person?
What things or events in your life have you had to wait for?
What stories or anecdotes from your life show how you are patient or impatient?
The video: Don’t eat the marshmallow by Joachim de Posada TED
How did the video of the children make you feel?
How did the children act around the marshmallow?
If it were you, would you have eaten it? Why?
Why do you think it is important to be able to delay gratification?
What do you think Posada means by “we are eating more marshmallows that we produce?”
It is an age old discussion. What are the differences between men and women? Biologist Karissa Sanbonmatsu presents some of the new discoveries from epigenetics and research in DNA that explain the differences between men and women from a biological perspective. This is a science based lesson plan with tons of scientific vocabulary to describe how DNA works to create gender differences.
However, here is the twist, Sanbonmatsu, a transgender scientist, also talks about the challenges she faced through her struggle with her own identity. This content is layered and complex. On one hand the objective is to help science-based students become more verbal with DNA related vocabulary–an important corner stone topic for biologists. But beyond that, the speaker pulls in the social challenges of the “old boys club” that exists in the scientific community as well as the very misunderstood transgenderism.
What are some of the theories you have heard about the differences between men and women?
Do you think there are differences?
What does it mean to be transgender?
The Video: The Biology of Gender
There are really two aspects in this video mashed up together. 1) Sanbonmatsu shares the science of gender. 2) Sanbonmatsu talks about the reactions of her scientific community towards transgenderism.
I would first untangle each aspect.
What does the latest research tell us about gender?
What is the behaviour of our DNA?
How is Sanbonmatsu contributing to a society of tolerance inclusion?
Why does Sanbonmatsu expose the scientific community as being especially hard on her choices?
Do you think there are other social circles where transgenderism is more difficult?
What about less difficult?
I leave you with that for the weekend…have a good one.