Very few of us would be able to cross it. If we tried, most of us would very likely lose our balance and fall. Has this ever seemed strange to you?
The beam is the same width, the same length, the same sturdiness. Even if we leave out things like strong crosswinds or distracting views, we would still have a
great deal of difficulty balancing on a beam simply because it’s much higher. The reason: the cost of failure.
If you fall from a six-inch high balance beam there is little cost to you for trying or even failing. Because you know you won’t get hurt, you feel free to move however you need to move to maintain your balance. In the event that you do fall off, you simply learn from the experience and get back on.
The high-bar is very different. Up there you’d be so afraid of failure that you wouldn’t even be able to move in ways that would help you balance. Of course, if you fell, there’d be no second chance.
What kind of classroom experiences are our kids having? Are they able to move
forward knowing that they can explore ways of learning to see if they can maintain their balance and direction? Are they comfortable failing because they know they’ll learn from the experience?
Or are they in a situation where failure is immensely costly, even damaging, where they dare not explore the possibilities for fear of the consequences? Do only the fortunate few with exceptional balance or lots of help make it from one place to the other? Do some not even bother trying because failure is certain, and failure is the
I’m happy to say that in my chorus the students are able to fail in little ways as they move towards their goals. They learn to recognize their failures and see them for what they are: a guide to later success. Over a period of time, they not only succeed but they come to see failure as a necessary part of the process.
This is true in the very best mathematics and science classes, literature classes, and history classes and these teachers should be applauded. It is worth noting, however, that students have this experience in nearly all of their music classes, visual art
classes, or dance classes because it is in the nature of the arts to require exploration as a means of attaining a goal. In some cases, students who are not allowed to fail anywhere else learn these skills from their arts teachers.
This is why the arts curriculum is so vital to the well-being of the student. This is what the arts community can model for the rest of the academic subjects.
This is how, in the arts, it is possible to lose most battles and still
win the war.