Tag: failure

Why Fs are Important

f-school-letter-grade2“If you’re not failing every now and then, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative” Woody Allen.

I don’t say this often but I completely agree with Woody Allen on this one!  The last few weeks I’ve been thinking about grades and how we assess things and people in our culture.  On my movie blog http://54disneyreviews.wordpress.com I give a grade at the end of the review.  This can be anywhere from an A+ to an F.  Up until this point I have only given 7 Fs out of close to 250 reviews I’ve done.

Since I’m sure you are curious the 7 Fs are-  Chicken Little, Brother Bear, Dinosaur, Road to El Dorado, Maleficent, Ghost of Girlfriends Past, and The Lorax.  These are movies which I think are complete failures.  Ds on the other hand I didn’t like but I found some things to enjoy so it isn’t a total failure.

Most people are with me for this part of the grading system.  It’s when we get into Cs that it is interesting.  I have noticed many people treat a C grade like it is an F.  To me a C is in the middle.  It’s half way between an A and an F.  It’s an average, ok movie.  If I hated it I would give it an F.

If people actually read my reviews instead of just looking at the grade they would see on my C grades I say lots of nice things about said movie.  Such a movie is not a failure but there are some problems that keep it from the masterpiece or good levels of A and B.  That’s ok.  Not every movie can be a masterpiece and I get a lot of enjoyment out of the C movies.

Anyway people kept treating Cs like Fs so frequently that it made me wonder if Fs weren’t a part of the cultural lexicon as much as when I was at school.  I asked a friend and she said it is nearly impossible to get an F in school.  If you do anything you will most likely get a C.  So no wonder a C is seen as a failing grade if it takes the bare minimum of effort!

I have a problem with this.  First of all, it leaves teachers with only 3 options for a student.  5 is hard enough but if every student is either Great, Good or Failure that isn’t good.  C should be a place for a person who is in the middle of the pack.  I guess those people are Bs now but what about those that are almost top of the class?  That should be a B and a C should be for those that are right in between.  That’s an important dilatation.  Not everyone is going to be great or terrible at things.  Some things we will be average at, even for the best students, and that’s ok.  School was tough for me, especially college and I was more than happy to be a C earner on multiple occasions and if I had felt like that C was a failure forget it! We need that average score!

bart gets an f

We also need the Fs for several reasons.  First if there is no fear of actual failure with real consequences what motivation is there to try your hardest?  In one of my favorite Simpsons episodes ‘Bart Gets an F’ Bart finds out if he doesn’t shape up academically he will need to repeat the 4th grade.  This fear of the consequences of failure whips him into gear and he tries as hard as he can.  And he gets a D which is a huge victory for him.  If he had just been given a C because we don’t want to hurt his feelings than he wouldn’t have tried so hard and learned something.

When I was going to school there were many times I would leave the testing center in tears, having tried my hardest but still failed.  But that was a good thing.  I was forced to push beyond what I thought my limits are and actually learn the tough stuff or at least be average competency at it. If I knew I would get a C for just showing up and doing the bare minimum forget it.

And what are we trying to do with education anyway?  What separates education from day care is the kids are supposed to be learning something in school. And with the exception of special education situations if they don’t learn the assigned topic than the education has been a failure.  They deserve an F.  It should not be this devastating humiliating thing.  It should be a normal part of life that every once in a while, and sometimes a lot, we fail at things.  What do we do with that failure and how do we make it into a success?  Now that is where the true education comes into play!

The other thing is if a C has become the new F than you lose the ability to really differentiate problems in a sea of averageness.  For example, I was bullied pretty badly from 4th and into 5th grade with it getting especially bad the latter Fall.  I downplayed this at home telling my Mom about the incidents in a laughing silly kind of way.  Like it was no big deal.  Then I got a D in Math that Christmas.  My parents knew there was a problem.  It was a touchpoint that made them aware of other issues much more important than the math.  As a result I was pulled from the school and went to private school for the rest of the year that changed my life.

I don’t think that would have happened without the D.  The teacher could have thought it was harsh to give me a D because I did try but it was the grade I deserved and I’m glad she gave it to me.  Very glad.  Ds and Fs should be signs to parents, administrators, even children that there is something wrong and we need to look for solutions.  To just whitewash everything with a vanilla C takes away that opportunity for introspection and growth.

You can say grades are stupid and we shouldn’t give them out anyway, and to a certain extent I agree with you.  If a child is progressing that is the most important thing; however, I don’t think credit should be given for learning something if it wasn’t actually done.  If we got rid of grades completely than again we lose that touchpoint to easily compare things.  Not everything in life can have a long discourse or excuse.  Sometimes you just need to be able to look at a few key figures and say ‘ok Sally is doing better at English than Math. Let’s focus on that”.

I’ve thought about not giving grades on my movie reviews because I think people sometimes don’t read the review but just go right to the grade.  This is frustrating because I may explain something that you may say ‘she didn’t like that but it would be great for me’.  Like I don’t like scary movies so I may say as a negative a movie is too scary for me but if you like scary movies than it might sound great to you!  My grade is just that-my grade.  It’s what I thought of the movie.  I don’t try to imagine what others might think.  It is just my opinion.

I also don’t use a rubric like some critics do because sometimes my feelings both good and bad can’t be quantified.  It is just an overall experience with a film that deserves a certain grade.  I feel sometimes my friends with rubrics are held back by them from giving a movie a grade they know it really deserves.   I didn’t give grades for my Scrooge month series and I think people were a little more inclined to actually read the reviews, so I’m still considering it.   What do you think? If you read reviews what do you like as far as ranking systems and scores?

Regardless, the changing in the American mind of a C from average to failure is not a good thing.  People should be allowed to fail and it not be as big of a deal.  It’s part of the learning experience.  And if they fail I’m not going to sugarcoat it with a C.  That’s doing a disservice to all the people/movies/whatever who worked so hard for that C.

Plus, how do you delineate what is truly special if there isn’t an equally strong opposite?  Has an A also lost all of its meaning and value?

What do you think?  Do you see this as a problem?  Are we too afraid to let kids fail? What about how we grade or rank other things like movies or books?  Did you ever get a D or F that whipped you into gear or helped you? What do you think the solution is?

Treehouse-of-horror-v1

Swim Shutdown

So I have made a difficult decision.  I have decided to not swim Slam the Dam.  Here are the reasons:

1. I miss General Conference for my church.  I should have just abandoned the attempt in the first place because watching this live and tweeting during it has become a big part of my life.  I need the nourishment and its just not the same watching it backwards.

2.  Despite their best efforts I have not gelled well with the organizers and I’ll just leave it at that.

3.  My friend won’t be able to go so she will be driving me down just to watch me swim.

4.  The likelihood of my finishing was about 50/50 (being generous).  My best time in a 1 mile swim is 54 minutes which is cutting it very close to the hour time limit. I get why they needed to have it but it just wasn’t the best for my friend and I to have the time limit.

5. With the government shutdown looming and very likely the race would be cancelled anyway because they rely on the parks department for the permit and race.  I think the chance of everything being resolved by Saturday is very small.  One of the organizers said “If the government shuts down the park will be closed and no swim. It’s that simple.”  I think its very unlikely the race will go on at all.

6. I have gotten to the pool about 4 times in September.  With vacation, sickness, back treatments and everything else it just hasn’t been a great training month like August was

7. In the end, driving 7 hours to not finish or have it cancelled while missing Conference just didn’t seem worth it especially considering I don’t really have any friends going or who would be there to cheer me on.

8. My friend summarized why she wasn’t going and her outlook and I agree:

“I’ve also withdrawn, asking that my swag bag and hoodie be mailed to me. I still dont regret signing up. I had a goal to reach for, and though I fell just short of it, I succeeded in becoming a swimmer. I will take that as the lifetime win it is. And, this just means my first “official” swim will be a SLOW swim. I think I love that!”

9.  I will also be following the directions and repeated orders of the planning committee.  Today they reiterated that if you are “unwell, ill, injured or generally “off” from your normal self (whatever that means?)  or can not meet course cut offs times, please do not swim” .  I will respect their request and not swim, leave it at that.

10. All goals just don’t work out and I think there is a lesson in that.  This is the second year I’ve tried to do this swim and will be my last for a time.  It’s just too busy a time for me and has been too stressful for all involved.

Thank you to all the volunteers and my friends for your amazing support.  I love you all so much.  Swimming is after all just a hobby.  It needs to always be fun and the last month or so it hasn’t felt fun.  I’m going to work on that.  I know that I’m a good swimmer.  Not swimming Slam the Dam does not change that.  I know that it is all for the best.

Thank you especially to Tania for being my training buddy and becoming my cherished friend.  You are the best. (I feel like I’m giving an Oscar speech but its true).

Thanks you guys!

This is what its all about in the end.  Friends always
This is what its all about in the end. Friends always

Guys- it was cancelled in the end so I’m extra happy with my decision (and glad I made my own medals in advance!).  I am sorry for those hoping to swim that couldn’t.  Karma…

DNF is Not a 4 Letter Word

For those of you who do not follow me on facebook you might not be aware of the recent drama in my life.  It started in the summer when my new friend Tanya and I started training together.  She was new to open water.  New to swimming in fact.  She is a student of my friend Kate who is a fabulous swim instructor for adults.  She’s introduced so many people to swimming and open water over the years and has helped me tons with my own stroke.

In July Tania mentioned to me that she wanted to prepare for a race but didn’t feel she would be ready for Deer Creek in August.  The next obvious choice was to take the trip out to Slam the Dam in Las Vegas at the beginning of October.  I have done this race in 2011 and it was a lot of fun.  I figured why not?  (I had signed up last year but various dramas kept me from attending).

So the training began and we got to blackridge pond as often as we could and we both saw improvement.  More importantly we had fun and became dear friends.

Tania and me.
Tanya and me.

Tanya is honestly good for my ego because she thinks I’m such a good swimmer.  I love to swim but pretty much always know I’m the slowest girl in the room and I’m ok with that.  I get the job done and that’s all that matters to me.  I’ve told Tanya repeatedly over these weeks ‘this is a hobby.  If it isn’t fun you are doing something wrong’.

That said, I’ve had nagging doubts about my abilities all along.  With my back and other chronic pain I haven’t been able to train as hard as last year, it was frustrating for me to feel like I wasn’t the swimmer I was just a few months ago.  These anxieties were made worse by the realization of a strict time limit at Slam the Dam.  For some unknown reason the park service would only give them until 11 am and then everyone has to be done.

This only gives the 1.2 mile swimmers 1 hour to swim.  The organizers have told me it is ‘plenty of time for a swim’ but they don’t understand or aren’t interested in nurturing new/nontraditional athletes.  My best time on a 1 mile swim is 53 minutes. At Deer Creek my time was 1 hr 2 minutes for 1 mile.

To make matters worse they sent out an email last week saying “If you are not adequately prepared mentally and/or physically, do not race”  What does that even mean?  I’m not mentally prepared for life let alone a race.  I mean who feels adequately prepared for something so monumental?  I bet if you asked Michael Phelps he’d tell you things he wished he’d done or worked harder on.  To me this was baffling and kind of mean-spirited. (and I begged for some kind of an accommodation but no go)

They have also made it clear that you will be pulled from the water if you go over time, which I’m ok with but I just wish the time limit didn’t exist.  It honestly makes me sick inside.  Sick for my friend.  Sick for me.  Sick for all the other new swimmers who will be discouraged from participating.  A side of me wants to throw in the towel and not make the effort to drive out there and be humiliated…

But where’s the victory in that? I’d say there is about a 50/50 chance depending on weather, current, course, strength, stroke etc that I finish the race.  My GSL time after all was 1 hr 24 minutes so not even close to the cut off time because of the strong current. (Thank you Utah races for not having a time limit or at least a strictly enforced one).

50/50…so I either succeed and have a triumphant moment or I get a DNF (Did Not Finish).  Even now there is a side of me that shudders when I say those words.  It is so outside of my nature to not finish, and yet isn’t it always a possibility in any endeavor?  At least anything worth doing can be a success or failure?

The funny thing is  the ingredients are nearly the same for a finish and a DNF- both have training, goal setting, driving, racing, happy friends and lots of people who say to me ‘I could never do that’.  The only difference is me and my pride.  Kind of silly…

I love what JK Rowling says about failure. ” It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default”

I don’t want to fail by default.  For me a DNF will be a DNQ (Did Not Quit)

swimmingHow do you guys deal with DNF’s and potential failures in your goals?  Its especially hard when it is so outside of your control.  What are your strategies?

I can definitely promise you this- I will not be swimming Slam the Dam again anytime soon.  If they only want athletes with a specific set of skills than they have got it.  This will be the last year myself or my blog are involved.  Too bad really…

I’ve gotten some great encouragement on facebook from the swim forums.  Thanks everyone!