By Janet Price, Director of Admissions and Outreach, CLE Rockville

Many of our students at CLE did not experience a lot of success before they came here. That’s okay – our program is all about experiential learning. Hopefully we won’t have to go through 10,000 ways that don’t work until we hit on the strategy that does, but we gain a lot from the journey.

I sat down with five of our students at CLE Rockville during their Social Engagement Group to talk about what failure means, and why it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I am always impressed and amazed at our students’ insights. One student even contributed a poem (below)!

Let’s talk about why failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

Robert: The only failure is the failure to learn from your mistakes.

David: Use failure as fuel to do better, like lighting a fire! When I was on the high school rowing team, we were total “noobs” [newbies] and placed last in our first race. It was a lesson on how to plan our race strategies. The next race, we gathered together, made sure we fixed some of the issues from the first race (like ensuring the coxswain’s box was charged), and we did better.

Divi: Every failure is something you can get better at. If you fail in some way, that part is something you can refine and perfect. When I’m at a Smash (video game) tournament and I lose a close match, I realize if I did this one thing I could have won. So I study, and every failure is a learning experience.

Tatiana: When I was in high school, I once got a low grade on an Anatomy quiz. I retook it and learned from my mistakes.

That brings up a great point. Have any of you continued using your mistakes as a learning tool at CLE while taking your college classes?

David: Ugh, yes, in math class. I didn’t do well on an assignment, and I went to the tutoring center on campus to do a corrections assignment, where you look over the missed problems and see what you did wrong. I also came up with new strategies with my CLE tutor, not only for studying, but for relaxing before a test. Now I take a run on the morning before an exam to clear my head. I also use a journal.

Divi: In my Calculus class, I literally didn’t know how an equation worked. I got help from my tutor, and now I can do it. If I didn’t fail the homework, I wouldn’t have known that I couldn’t do that equation, until it showed up on the test. If you don’t fail, then you don’t know what you don’t know.

David: (addressing the group) What do you all view failure as?

Leah: I never think about it because it’s not important to me. I would be sad, depressed and negative if I focused on failure.

Tatiana: Think of recounting your actions as a video game. If you fail the first time, it’s no problem to restart.

David: Know what your weaknesses are and how to tweak them. If you get knocked down a peg, think about how you can get back up a couple of pegs.

Jenny: I wrote a poem.

CLE: While we were talking?

Jenny: Yes, I like to express myself by writing.

CLE: Can you share it?

Jenny: I’d be happy to…

Half-Empty, Half-Full

by Jenny Curtiss

Tatiana from CLE Rockville, at Sky Zone
no way out
no rope stretching down
to the bottom,
no airlift out,
no one else
in there.

Just rock walls
and people.

People who
plant their feet
and their hands
into the steady walls
and pull themselves
out into the light,
with the new knowledge
of where to put their feet
in order
to start their journey
to the summit.