Lean into the fail

Lean into the fail was an expression shared with us by Mary Ann Melkonian during a Board offsite where members of our Board of Directors, Board of Trustees, and key members of our membership gathered to trial a leadership simulation designed by Booz Allen Hamilton. It is so hard for adults to embrace risk, to take leaps of faith, to make mistakes. And in this simulation we were asked to bring our reality, as individuals and stakeholders of the organization, into play -- the simulation takes the form of a game. Leaning into the fail is the way we shape learning for young children. Adults sometimes, maybe even a lot of times, need to be reminded...LEAN INTO THE FAIL! Now leaning into the fail is different than jumping in with both feet. Leaning means it is just enough to learn from your mistakes and head back to safety to figure out something that will work. So last week I leaned in and was met with a little and truth be told, unpleasant, push back of failure, but in the end, there was simply too much to celebrate.

I took out our morning class on a planned visit to the wilds of Sligo Creek Park. The 3-year olds left late in the morning. The route we would take was a half mile loop to a downed tree. As the tree fell, its root system split a giant boulder almost in half. It is an impressive sight. And a long, long walk. We were not able to make it back to the school for pick-up and a hastily patched pick-up plan was thrown together. Even though everyone was picked up, uncertainty (leaning into the fail) is not a comfortable feeling for parents.

That uncomfortable-feeling sometimes bubbles up and finds a way to be shared. That made something that was filled with so many little and big moments of success feel like it was a failure. This is something that teachers struggle with every day and even though we strive to build mutual trust, there are always points of failure. The question becomes...do we lean into the fail in order to achieve moments of success, or not? Do we say we can't without even trying? If we do not explore, how can we discover?

Problem Solving


Problem Solved

So I gave myself a re-do. I took the afternoon class out too. These photos are collected from our afternoon trip. One of the reasons I wanted to go was to keep an eye out for a car key one of the morning co-opers had lost on the way. In the end, we didn't find her key, plus we lost something else, a jacket bag that belonged to one of the Tracks. In any case, this completely unannounced trip was a wonderful point for comparison to observe how a different group of children and adults responded to the adventure. I checked in with the afternoon co-opers and they were all very excited to get on the road.

Fairy House

Another fallen tree offered an easier, but still challenging-feeling, climb for the children. Everyone left the forest satisfied that they had climbed a tree.

Assessing Risk


The forest comes home

Purposefully leaning into the fail, knowing just what that failure could look like for a forest adventure -- Uncertainty, such an uncomfortable feeling -- and finding that this is exactly what made it successful. The uncertainty of the terrain and the way the children and the adults would be able to manage the long walk to not knowing if we would get back to the school on time were important components of both failure and success. We managed and prevailed.