Failure…it is an Option.

By: Adam Welch, Varsity Golf Coach, Science Teacher

What do the following people have in common: Thomas Edison, J. K. Rowling, Walt Disney, Michael Jordon and Beyonce’?  Every one of these powerful individuals failed at their craft sometime during their lifetime.  Edison did not succeed the first time with the light bulb, Rowling wasn’t accepted at her first college choice, Disney was fired for not being creative, Jordan didn’t make the varsity basketball team and Beyonce’ lost on Star Search.  If any of these individuals had stopped or quit after failure, how would that have affected their future?  The question then becomes, do we let our children fail, or do we step in and make sure that does not happen?

Failure is eminent throughout our lifetime and will also be a part of our children’s lifetime.  Our children should understand some extent of failure.  Failure teaches us many things including perseverance, problem solving, humility, creativity and experience.  Thomas Edison said about the light bulb, “I have not failed, I have found 10,000 ways that wouldn’t work.”  Through perseverance, creativity and experience, he eventually found a way for it to work.  In the classroom, not every student is going to get every problem or question right every time, but if they learn from their incorrect answers, success should follow.

As a coach, I see failures on a daily basis.  In basketball, not every shot is made, not every dribble or pass is perfect and even the best fail most every time they step on the court.  Every baseball player strikes out or makes an error at some point of their career.  Even the best golfers hit a bad shot into the hazard or out of bounds, but they continue to play.  Teaching athletes that failure is going to occur, but what can be learned and applied to future attempts makes the best athletes.  Michael Jordan was once quoted, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Being successful is not an attribute that we are born with, it is achieved through hard work, persistence and yes, even failure.





Brain Training: Moving beyond Fact Storage to Critical Thinking

By: Kyle Christmas, Upper School English

Let’s go back in time for a moment. When I was in school—not too terribly long ago, I might add—there was tremendous value in fact gathering and memorization. We memorized all sorts of things, from poetry and historical dates to geometric proofs and chemical equations. (I can still recite the first few lines of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Talesin Middle English if ever you catch me in the halls of CA!) Of course, this rote memorization is still important today in education, and our brightest and most successful students tend to have a mental catalogue of useful material from which they can draw on call. However, in the age of Google, iPhones, and smart homes, a major question regarding the fundamentals of education has emerged: Should fact storage still be our prime focus in the classroom when just about any fact necessary is a few keystrokes away?


If we as teachers are honest, we’ve seen this coming for a while. Fifty years ago, I’d be a “sage on the stage” with a corduroy coat, spewing a mindful of material that students would frantically scratch down into their Cornell Notes. That role, however, simply cannot exist anymore, for our students have no desire—and frankly, no true need—to sit in a chair and be pelted with facts. The “sage on the stage” has been replaced, and Google is a far more accessible schoolmaster.


Not everything found in a simple Google search is useful, though, and therein lies our new challenge. The role of the teacher in education today has less to do with fact mongering and so much more to do with mind training. Too many students leave K-12 education with heads full of great information (that which they could find on Wikipedia within thirty seconds), yet they lack some of the fundamental problem solving, analysis, and logical reasoning skills that are truly necessary in a 21stcentury workforce. If we’re honest, we all know that a 2019 company will be more apt to hire candidates with the skills above rather than someone who can recite pi to the twentieth digit. Thus, whether I teach science, literature, algebra, or history, what my students need most from me is training in how to think critically about the information and concepts presented.


We’ve all heard it a million times, but what is critical thinking? If you ask a dozen teachers, you may just get a dozen different answers, all within the same vein, but slightly idiosyncratic nonetheless. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it in this nutshell: “careful thinking directed toward a goal.” This definition seems less than useful, but ultimately, this is a formula for exactly what we must train our students to do. When presented with any problem, scenario, or opportunity for analysis, they are essentially given a goal in the form of a solution, viable action, or plausible idea. To achieve this desired end, they must carefully consider not just the outcome, but also all of the information and variables that are at play. Thus, “careful thinking directed toward a goal” is simply a paradigm that can be applied in any academic situation.


Pushing our students to think carefully, to consider information deeply, and to come to certain conclusions on their own is nowhere near as simple as the definition above. A teacher’s job could be simplified by providing step-by-step instructions with minimal margin for error, requiring little more than the application of a target skill from the student. For example, instead of asking my students to consider the symbolic value of a character’s ultimate decision in a novel, I may instead simply ask them to point to the climax of the story. Instead of analyzing what the author may be trying to communicate with a certain relationship between characters, I might ask them to identify a protagonist and antagonist. There is a place for this in education, but only in the rudimentary phase of skill-mastery. Removing the scaffolding requires extra effort on behalf of both the teacher and student, which may account for the staggering fact that higher-order critical thinking is only specifically included in the curricula of about 5% of US schools (Bouyges). Nevertheless, 100% of students will be far more successful with stronger critical thinking skills. Training them to think on this level, regardless of our content area or curricula, is our task as teachers in the 21stcentury. When we succeed, we lead our students to be more creative, more empathetic, and more productive in all aspects of their lives.



Works Cited

Bouyges, Helen Lee. “How Critical Thinking Improves Life Outcomes.” Forbes, Nov. 2018,

Hitchcock, David. “Critical Thinking.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2018,

Homework–Do we need it?

By: Patrick Miller, Intermediate Math Teacher

Why is Homework Important? What does my child gain from doing work outside the classroom?  These are questions parents often ask when it comes to assignments outside the classroom. Homework should be positive in the eyes of the children.  It should be short and to the point. The goal is to practice on the concept that was just taught in class and to be a review of previous concepts.  Also, if a student feels confident about the homework assignment, it will translate in the test scores on the particular concept.  If a student struggles on the concept, it gives the student a wonderful opportunity to reach out and ask for help.  Homework teaches children major life skills they will need for the rest of their life.  Three major life skills are time management, problem solving, and self-discipline.


The time management piece is one of the most difficult for children.  If a student learns about time management and how to prioritize all of their tasks, deadlines will be met on time.  Learning to complete assignments on time and prioritizing assignments based on length of assignment and due date will help them in the future. Time management has a real-world connection, such as, paying bills as an adult.


The problem-solving piece is a wonderful way for students to overcome challenges at an early age. Having students think through a problem to reach a solution is valuable and beneficial in the childhood development. Every challenge is not going to be a one-step process.  Challenges in life often require multi-step problem solving.  Also, another valuable life lesson in problem solving is every challenge is not going to be solved the same way.  For example, 2 x 1 = 2 and 4 x ½ = 2.  One person might have said that the correct way to solve the problem was 2 x1 while another person may have said 4 x ½.  If students get the correct answer and justify how they arrived at their answer that is most important.  If there was a minor mistake, a student can learn from their mistake if work is shown.


The self-discipline is another challenge that students face each day.  Do I want to go to the movie with my friends or stay at home and finish my homework?  We all know what is probably the most fun choice.  However, if we teach self-discipline at an early age it makes all the outside distractions easier to work though.  This will be very beneficial for students later on in high school and college.   Also, this self-discipline will equip everyone to being a life long learner.


Homework isn’t something teachers take lightly.  The goal isn’t to punish the students or to give busy work. Homework serves a purpose in your child’s education and one that will help them throughout their life.

Begin Your Journey.