Bill Page

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Thoughts on the Use of Failure as a Teaching Technique

by Bill Page
Continued from Thoughts on the Use of Failure as a Teaching Technique page 1
January 1, 2009

Failing students desperately seek to regain human needs diminished by failure. Needs include; belonging, acceptance, competence, independence, dignity, and worth.

Failing students’ lack of responsibility should be understood from the perspective of poor parenting and painful relationships that have precluded them from learning responsibility.

The desired, prerequisite, and important student behaviors must be learned. Bad grades do not teach students responsibility, values, knowledge, or appropriate behavior.

The anguish, anger, and, frustration caused by student noncompliance usually results in punitive action by teachers, which starts a cycle of reciprocal pain-for-pain cycle.

Teachers need to recognize and respond to the underlying causes of student failure rather than react to the actions and manifestations of the failure.

Acting on the pain of failure by their denial and retaliation is more desirable for students than displaying their vulnerability or admitting their weaknesses.

Behavior that seems illogical and senseless to successful, educated teachers makes good sense and perfect logic in the minds tormented students who are in a defensive mode.

Students who suffered hurt in the past are hypersensitive to threats to their self-worth and often act aggressively and defiantly toward otherwise innocent or unintentional actions.

Once the misbehavior-punishment cycle of reciprocal retaliation is begun, it cannot be stopped until the teacher or student admits defeat or withdraws from the relationship.

Punishment is the treatment of choice for noncompliance. But punishment has not worked and is counterproductive on defiant students. If it worked they’d be compliant.

Punitive actions by teachers are notorious for satisfying teacher needs and frustration more than they are for changing the behavior of the troubled and failing students.

All children need a sense of belonging despite their problems; those who need to feel that sense the most may never really feel it from any caring adults at home or school.

Schooling is the one experience every child has. Schools have the obligation to provide for the emotional needs for effective learning that poor parenting neglects.

Students have three ways of coping with negative, unsuccessful, punitive, failing school experiences. They can deceive, defy or disengage; that is they can lie, battle, or escape.

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About Bill Page ...

Bill Page, a farm boy, graduated from a one-room school. He forged a career in the classroom teaching middle school “troublemakers.” For the past 26 years, in addition to his classroom duties, he has taught teachers across the nation to teach the lowest achieving students successfully with his proven premise, “Failure is the choice and fault of schools, not the students.”

Bill Page is a classroom teacher. For 46 years, he has patrolled the halls, responded to the bells, and struggled with innovations. He has had his share of lunchroom duty, bus duty, and playground duty. For the past four years, Bill, who is now in his 50th year as a teacher, is also a full time writer. His book, At-Risk Students is available on Abebooks, Amazon, R.D. Dunn Publishing, and on Bill’s web site:

In At-Risk Students, Page discusses problems facing failing students, “who can’t, don’t and won’t learn or cooperate.” “The solution,” he states, “is for teachers to recognize and accept student misbehavior as defense mechanisms used to hide embarrassment and incompetence, and to deal with causes rather than symptoms. By entering into a democratic, participatory relationship, where students assume responsibility for their own learning.” Through 30 vignettes, the book helps teachers see failing students through his eyes as a fellow teacher, whose classroom success with at-risk students made him a premier teacher-speaker in school districts across America.

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