The Ugly Triumph of Unwelcome Failure


The results came back in an email, just a few minutes after I completed the test. It was a rather pleasant “Thank You” letter, masking the unpleasant news. 
Dear Greg Armamentos, 
Thank you for completing the Google Certified Educator Level 1 exam. 
Exam Result: FAIL 
It was of course sent in a “Do Not Reply” email. But my reply, or response, was utter disbelief. And embarrassment. And all those annoying, haunting, insecurity-inducing little inner voices that instantly seize the opportunity to heap shame upon you when you don’t accomplish a task that you set out to do.
“You’re not technologically savvy.”
“Your students can handle these apps better than you.”
“What makes you think you are qualified for this certification?”
Now I have been using various Google Educational Tools in my classroom daily for the past few years. When I signed up for a training session to prepare me for this test, I assumed I would be filling in a few small gaps and then breezing through the test later that day. But a few minutes into the training presentation, I realized the instruction was much more comprehensive than my knowledge to date. So I dug in, and tried to absorb everything shared over the 8 hour session. 
They also provided a link to website that offered additional preparation for the certification exam. This site had thirteen training modules, and I spent over 20 more hours pouring over the materials to make sure I was ready for the test. Because I was determined that there was no way I was going to fail that test. 
And to top it off, I signed up to take the test with a group of colleagues. We would all meet together, and have each others’ backs while navigating the test. It was overkill to be sure, but sometimes I can be a perfectionist. Eve though I caution my students against the self-imposed stresses of perfectionism.
Easier said than done.
A colleague emailed me the night before, letting me know that she had just taken the exam and passed, and sending her best wishes for my results. When I replied with what I had done to prepare for the test, she quickly emailed back:
“OMG! You’re more than prepared!”
Famous last words.
I used every minute of the three hours allotted, and still I didn’t reach one of the 11 test scenarios, and failed to complete another one. But I felt very confident in all of the sections that I had finished. 
Those of us gathered to take the test together began getting our results at the same time. And immediately the horror of not passing in front of my colleagues dawned on me. The email alerts came one after another.
“Exam Result: PASS”
“Exam Result: PASS”
“Exam Result: FAIL”
Now I remind my students all the time of the importance of failure. Of having a growth mindset. Of daring greatly. We talk about JK Rowling’s inspiring Harvard commencement speech extolling the benefits of failure. But truth be told, I’d rather learn from your failure than my own. I’d rather be an empathetic colleague, patting you on the back and encouraging you to try again, than falling flat on my face and having you extend a hand to help me up. I’m just being honest.
But that day wasn’t a day for welcome results. It wasn’t a day to bask in glory. It was just plain ugly.
For a few moments, I inflated a few proverbial black balloons and wallowed in a bit of self pity. I listened to those little voices, leaning in to tell me that I didn’t quite measure up to my colleagues, and that I likely am a fraud masquerading as a competent educator. But then I resolved to get back in the arena, and dare greatly again. I reminded myself that failure isn’t permanent, and while it is ugly, and I might still secretly wish to learn from its’ virtues when it befalls others instead of me, I nonetheless embraced the moment, and resolved to take the test again. I took out my notes from the training session, and revisited any area that posed some difficulty. I went through the litany of modules, again.
And after a gut-wrenching, stress-filled, “shove-it-in-your-face” to those haunting little voices, I finished the test with plenty of time to spare. And yes, this time I passed.
But the real lesson for me was to authentically embrace my own failures, as unwelcome as they may be. I was reminded that some of life’s little triumphs aren’t pretty, but ugly. That trying and failing, only to rise and fight again, always trumps not trying at all.

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