Professional Reading Saturday: The Gift of Failure


The Gift of Failure  By Jessica Lahey

Several years ago when I was the principal at Morgan County High School in Madison, GA, we invigorated our school’s culture each year by developing a theme for each school year and using that concept to further our work in classrooms and throughout the school.

We didn’t begin that process by asking ,” what should our theme be this year?”  I know that can be the pathway that some take, but we tried to let our context drive our theme instead of the other way around.  So, we asked ourselves “what is a current need that would benefit from a year-long emphasis?”  There were always several ideas, but in this particular one we wanted to focus on the value of struggle.  We had made great progress in accelerating the vigor of our curriculum, beginning and IB Programme and adding several Advanced Placement classes, of which about half of our students were enrolled.  We had gotten them to the table, but we needed to give them some stamina to continue the work towards excellence.  Our concern was this:  we are selling hard work and patience to young people who are hearing cries of “take the easy way” from many other influencers.

To focus on that concern, we developed the theme “Struggle to Triumph.”  We started it off with our opening day convocation and talked about the value of struggle on the pathway to triumph each and every day throughout the year.  It was a daily feature on our televised announcements and a conversation in classes and around the campus throughout the year.  We had our best academic year to that point and our emphasis on the value of struggle was center to the effort.

jessica-laheyIf Jessica Lahey had written The Gift of Failure at that time, we would have really appreciated it!  We’d have used it in professional development with our teachers and administrators.  We’d have connected our parents to the book and to the online community around the book. (found at )  While the book is directed towards parents, we’d have used it is a basis of study with our students too.

The Gift of Failure is a piece that can support your work  as a school administrator and is worthy of your consideration to add to your staff’s professional reading.  Lahey is one of us… a middle school teacher who has faced the challenge of helping students learn in a world in which we’ve created a fear of failure.  She shares ways that schools and parents can help our students to learn to use failure as a step towards success.  That they can come brave learners who can grow to be the independent, autonomous people we are hoping they will become.

Read more about The Gift of Failure  here:

Check out a quick video about the book with Jessica here:


#Leadership365  /21




Published by Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson encourages teachers and administrators across the country. He has been a teacher for nearly three decades and coaches principals, assistant principals, and aspiring leaders in a variety of formats. The National High School Principal of the Year in 2009, Dr. Wilson consults with school systems, coaches leaders, and shares encouragement to motivate teachers, staff and students. Mark has been a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal. He served as an administrator for 15 years and is in his fifth year of full-time support of school leaders. This is a blog about the matters of principals because, principals matter!

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