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Learning from Failure

If at first you donít succeed, try, try again

by Helen Redfern (revised, originally published in 2009)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To present three reasons why we should embrace our failures.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need two readers to perform the sketch in the ‘Assembly, Step 1.

Assembly

  1. Sketch performed by two readers who are standing in front of a noticeboard.

    Reader 1:
    So, are you thinking of signing up to audition for the show?
    Reader 2: Which show?
    Reader 1: The show on the flyer that you’ve been staring at for the last five minutes.
    Reader 2: Oh, that one. No, of course not, why would I do that?
    Reader 1: Because you’re good when we act stuff out in class and you sing pretty well, too.
    Reader 2: Well, OK, you’re right. I had been thinking about it. But what if I don’t get in? What if they don’t want me? What kind of failure would I be then? I don’t fancy that, thanks very much.
    Reader 1: So, you’d rather not have a go and miss out on the whole production than risk failing?
    Reader 2: Obviously. Everyone’s like that deep down. No one wants to fail.
    Reader 1: No, but I bet everyone who’s a great success now has failed at some point along the way. That’s life.
    Reader 2: 
    Well, it’s not my life. I’m not a loser and I dont plan on becoming one.

    Both leave the stage.

  2. Nobody likes to fail. We find it easy to embrace our successes. Embracing our failures, though? That sounds like madness, doesn’t it? Well, here are three good reasons to do so.

  3. Take Jenny, for example. Her dad had set up his own business and she was so proud of him. He was always in the local newspaper and his business was going from strength to strength. Then, the recession hit. Money became tight and the business began to struggle. Soon everything was gone. The business folded. Everyone lost their jobs. Jenny’s dad had failed. She didn’t feel so proud any more. She didn’t know what to say.

    However, six months on, Jenny’s dad is trying to set up another business. He’s finding people who are willing to back him and put money into a new business. Having a failed business under his belt is seen as a positive thing. He’s learned from his mistakes. He’ll use his experience to create a better business.

    So, the first reason to embrace our failures is: failure helps us to learn from experience.

  4. Then there’s Emmanuel. He’s good at everything. When God was handing out the gifts, he piled them onto Emmanuel. He gets good grades in everything. He looks great and has the pick of the girls. He’s captain of the school football team. He even plays around on the piano and sings in a band.

    However, one day he’s told that he’s being released from the football academy that he plays for. He’s not good enough. They don’t want him any more.

    Emmanuel’s whole life falls apart. He’s let his parents down. He’s so disappointed in himself. He’s ashamed to tell his friends. He’s never failed at anything before and doesn’t know how to handle it. His self-esteem is non-existent.

    In a few months’ time, though, Emmanuel will look back and realize all that he has learned from this experience. He’ll be stronger. He’ll no longer be afraid of failure.

    So, the second reason to embrace our failures is: failure helps us to learn more about ourselves.

  5. Let’s think about Sam. He never felt like he was particularly good at anything or seemed to have many friends. Then, one day, Sam saw a popular student being picked on by some older boys and went over to help. One of the older boys pushed Sam over and stole the younger student’s bag anyway. Sam felt like a failure. However, news got round about how brave Sam had been and before long, he had a group of friends. These werent friends whose friendship depended on being the star player in the football team or the best-looking or the cleverest, but friends who accepted each other as they were. Friends who celebrated each other’s successes and failures.

    So, the third reason to embrace our failures is: failure helps us to learn who our true friends really are.

Time for reflection

Let’s take a few moments to reflect on what we have heard today.

Use the following poem to help the students reflect on the assembly. You may wish to pause to allow time for thought between each verse.

Failure is hard.
It hurts.
It can make us feel ashamed.

Fear of failure holds us back.
We are scared to try new things.
We are afraid to take risks.

But failure helps us to learn from experience.
We won’t make the same mistakes twice.
We will grow in wisdom and maturity.

And failure helps us to learn about ourselves.
We won’t fear failure so much the next time.
We will grow in strength and self-acceptance.

Failure helps us to learn who our true friends really are.
We will know who to turn to when we fail.
We will grow in friendship and belonging.

It’s time to take a risk.
It’s time to sign up.
It’s time to embrace failure.

Song/music

You say by Lauren Daigle, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIaT8Jl2zpI (4.30 minutes long)

Publication date: October 2019   (Vol.21 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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