Learning Through Failure

Nobody likes to fail. In Singapore, where competition is fierce and the pressure to excel is never-ending, we often view failure negatively and avoid it as best as we can. But no one is perfect all the time, and being able to learn from our failures is part and parcel of life.

In schools, we may believe that a teacher’s role is limited to regurgitating facts and grading assignments. Yet there is much more to learn from them than just knowing how to get an ‘A’. Aside from being educators, these teachers were once students themselves. And just like any student, they have had their share of hardships when it comes to learning. There are many life lessons we can learn from teachers who have overcome their setbacks as students.

A Teacher’s Testimony

Mr Ignatius Lim is an example of a teacher who seeks to engage his students by drawing on his past failures. As a student, he had trouble with English and Mathematics, and eventually failed the two subjects at his Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE).

In secondary school, he was fortunate enough to have met a dedicated English teacher, Ms Maggie Lim, who encouraged him to develop an interest in reading. Mr Lim took her advice and soon found himself developing a passion for books.

This year, he is one of the seven recipients of the Inspiring Teacher of English Award. The struggles and failures he faced as a student helped him develop empathy and a determination to help students like him. Mr Lim said: “The kind of struggle I had when I was learning helped me to think about how I can make my students understand what I’m teaching.”

Despite his past failures, Mr Lim used them as stepping stones on his way to success. Today, he is an educator with over 20 years of experience. He strongly believes that every child has the potential to “learn and improve”, and is committed to helping his students enjoy writing and improve their English.

The Ministry of Education regularly honors educators like him who contribute greatly to education in Singapore, with awards such as the Inspiring Teacher of English Award. In his congratulatory speech to the recipients of the English Award, Education Minister Lawrence Wong recently said: “A language that is as dynamic and expressive as English requires teachers who are passionate about their work, and who go about teaching the language in innovative and effective ways.”

Learning from our Teachers

Teachers are a valuable resource in our society. As unsung heroes, they strive to support and nurture their students on their paths to success, helping them to work past their failures.

We do not have to be afraid of failure. As we have seen from Mr Lim’s example, he made use of his setbacks and rose above them. We can all learn something from teachers like him.