Monday, November 15, 2010

Teaching Through Failure

a stool built by Joseph for the carpentry merit badge: 
FAILED.
Joseph works independently on his stool project.

During the Scout meeting last week, Joseph quietly told me that his stool had failed.  This simply meant that it would not count for the requirement, and that he would have to build something else to complete the merit badge.  This project failure hit Joseph pretty hard, as he had spent several hours constructing the stool (working in the dark, up until the moment of departure for the meeting).

A friend of mine who had overheard Joseph, and could see that he was visibly disappointed asked me, "What are you going to do?"

My reply, "Nothing."
Joseph's legitimate authority, the counselor for the merit badge, had failed the project.  I had no temptation to try to change the outcome of that decision or 'go to bat' for my son.

Up until that point, Joseph had taken complete ownership of his project, found all his own supplies and tools, measured and designed his stool, and worked hard to complete it before the beginning of the meeting.  When I had checked in on his building progress, I was impressed with his ingenuity and perseverance.  Hearing that the stool had failed made me sad, and hearing that Joseph's stool had been held up as the example of what not to do was disconcerting.

However, his failure served as a fine teaching moment.  Tim and I worked through the failure and the feelings of defeat with Joseph.  We helped Joseph understand how his own sharp words, even when spoken in a 'joking' manner, afflict and harm others.  We reminded him to forgive his leader, whose words had been humiliating, and to hold no grudge against his friends who had laughed at him.  How many times have you laughed at your friends?  How many times have your words been callous, hurtful or overly critical?

Joseph decided to make the most of this ordeal, and to move forward with plans to build something else.  He asked Grandpa Cliff (a master woodworker) for guidance.  In a homeschool writing assignment, he reflected upon the experience:

I went to lots of trouble to make a stool for the carpentry merit badge.  I cut some plywood for the top of the stool, and the cut, though not perfect, was pretty good. The supports split when I drove the nail in, so I just had the "legs" and the top.  It looked hideous, but it worked just fine.  When I took it to the (Scout) meeting, Mr. _____ said it wouldn't pass for a Webelos project.  But that isn't the worst.  He used it for an example as how horrible it was during the class.  So now I'm going to burn it.  I learned a lesson, though, which is that I should ask for help before I do a big project like that.                     ~Joseph (12 yrs)


Unless the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build. Unless the LORD guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch.       Psalm 127:1
"A building just begun is not the perfect work; final perfection is brought about only in the very process of building."  St. Hilary, bishop (+367)

1 comment:

Carolynn said...

So sad that a leader would do something like that. Good for you for using for God's glory.