Reflect and refine

The end of a year is often used as a time for reflection, reassessment, and redefining goals. This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking just that: reflecting on the year that was, assessing her achievements and failures and redefining her goals for the next part of her journey. Charli admits that she didn’t achieve all she had hoped but acknowledges that those shortcomings were more opportunities for learning than failure as such. While she learned more about herself and her abilities she was able to recalculate her goals and redefine her vision.

In education, failure is recognised as integral to learning.

Willingness to

  • have a go
  • try something new
  • seek alternate solutions and ways of finding solutions
  • persist and not give up
  • recognise that success does not always come with a first attempt;

these are effective characteristics of learners, innovators and creative people.

Thomas Edison, after many unsuccessful attempts said,

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

There is no failure in a failed attempt; there is only failure in giving up.

Again, to quote from Edison,

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

C.S. Lewis is also quoted as saying,

“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

He says,

“One fails forward toward success.”

The-greatest-glory-in Ralph Waldo Emerson

What helps that ability to rise again is a sense of where we are going, of what we are aiming for and what we want to achieve. This is often referred to as a vision, and it is a vision that Charli Mills has challenged writers to include in a flash fiction piece this week: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a vision.

Having a vision of the future and working towards that future is essential to effective teaching.

As explained by Vicki Davis in her post Thank You Teacher for Your Presence on the Cool Cat Teacher blog, teachers are constantly preparing students for more independent and resourceful futures.

Through learning from a mentor teacher Jackie Catcher was able to refine her vision for effective teaching, which she shared on Three Teachers Talk :

“I learned that to lead students into our subject, we must make them feel valued within our community. We must work to acknowledge their strengths and show them that we are all equals when it comes to developing as readers and writers. We must praise their hard work and determination far more than their failures, and we must make ourselves available both in and outside of class to have meaningful conversations and connections. In the end, we are never too old to change our outlook and education. After all, one teacher can make the difference.”

I constantly share my own, and others’, views about and vision for education on this blog.

I-had-this-dream-Chris Lehmann

Some of those posts are:

Visioning a better school, a better way of educating

Talking interviews

Whose failure?

Imagine that!

Child’s play – the science of asking questions


I have also referred to an alternative to traditional schooling that I “failed” to establish in the 1990s. The vision for that alternative was:

“A dynamic centre of learning opportunities

for children, families and communities

which focuses upon the development

of self-esteem and positive attitudes

in a nurturing environment

in which individuals are appreciated

for their uniqueness and diversity

while fostering the commonality of their human essence.”


Which brings me to my flash fiction piece for this week. In it I attempt to draw together many threads from views expressed over the year and finish with an optimism for the future.


The power of “No”

It was grey.

For as long as anyone could remember.

They moved about, comfortable in the familiar, avoiding the unknown.

Shadowy shapes beyond incited fear: a threat to all they knew?

Lives lacked definition, blending to sameness, conforming to rules.

“But why?” The tiny voice shattered the stillness.

All eyes turned. Bodies stiffened.

Whose was this unruly child?

“Shhh!” the hapless parents failed to hide their offensive produce.


Again! No one moved.

“Because!” was the parents’ definitive reply.

They breathed. “Because!” they confirmed in unison.

Defiantly the child pressed the dust-covered switch and flooded the world with light.


The-principal-goal-of education - Piaget

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

I wish you success as your vision takes shape in 2015.


20 thoughts on “Reflect and refine

  1. Pingback: Kept in the dark | Norah Colvin

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for joining in the conversation, Christy! Yes, that quote from CS Lewis is great. I’m pleased I found it. I wish you a great 2015 also! 🙂


  2. Sarah Brentyn

    I love all the quotes here. And your ability to see failure as a tool for learning. That is for sure the case with educational pursuits but also in life. If we pay attention to our mistakes, we can learn from them. If we recognize our failures, we can promise ourselves we won’t repeat them. As always, such a positive light from you, Norah. Have a beautiful New Year. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Visions of Words « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. writersideup

    Norah, as always—loved this post! I agree about all the wisdom about failure vs. perseverance. I think that all comes down to what your goals are, and how confident you are that, regardless of obstacles or unlikeliness, your passion for them and belief in them keeps you with it through failed attempts.

    And I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE your flash fiction piece! Stellar! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Donna Marie. You are always so generous with your comments. i agree with the power of passion. Not much would get done without it!
      I’m pleased you enjoyed my flash. It is a little like a story I wrote years ago. I am toying with the idea of digging it out and doing something with it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Annecdotist

    Lovely post and flash that so beautifully encapsulates your philosophy of teaching and learning. If only schools could teach us that life is not so much about success but endeavouring to “fail better” next time.
    Wishing you all the best for the coming year – look forward to another year of thoughtful and encouraging posts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Anne. I have enjoyed our discussions on your blog and mine, and in person. I, too, look forward to the reading, discussing and learning continuing next year.
      I think you might be talking about a growth mindset when you talk about ‘fail better’. I’ve already got my first post for 2015 ready! 🙂


  6. Charli Mills

    Norah, this is an energizing article and I can see how your vision for education shines through. Maybe the school did not come to light, but the ideals for it inform what you do and share with others. Your flash illustrates your point! Thank you for your meaningful contributions! I always learn from your posts!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Bec

    Great article Nor as always. Your FF was very effective at communicating your point I thought, and brought to mind Plato’s cave allegory. I like your thoughts on the concept of failing – and too this made me think of the premise of the scientific method. Maybe we don’t fail in life, we just have different outcomes against a hypothesis!!! I didn’t fail to get my article published in my first journal of choice, I simply was unable to prove the hypothesis that my article would be accepted by the journal…

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Norah Post author

      You wrote a brilliant article! They failed to see its potential! 🙂
      I like your idea of “different outcomes against a hypothesis”. It’s a great way of looking at things.
      Thanks for sharing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


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