Sunday, October 15, 2017

"Failure is not the opposite of success - it's part of success." Arianna Huffington

I read many articles on Education each week, and this week,  I read a really interesting article about teenagers and anxiety.  After being in the high school classroom for 37 years, I have seen more than my share of anxious students.  However, cases of anxiety and depression in teens seem to be growing exponentially, and I was truly alarmed by the statistics in this article.  I would like to share a personal observation with you.

First, here is the link to the article.  Besides the obvious stressors, such as more and more standardized tests, schools removing recess time to teach to the test, thus making even small children more anxious, and pressures from peers, parents, teachers, and social media to perform, I noticed one statement in the article that really caught my attention. A boy named Jake had asced all the tests in middle school, and now in high school, with even more pressure, he was in fear of failing, and his fear and anxiety were ruining his life.  Reading this article forced me to reflect upon some of my anxiety issues at school.  I was never particularly bright in science, which caused me many sleepless nights. However, I knew what it was like to fail and to lose, so my anxiety did not control me. 

Many students have never failed at anything in their entire lives, and they are afraid to fail. I think too many participation trophies have been distributed, and I also believe that  too many parents and teachers and coaches are telling students that "You are ALL winners!" That statement will never be true, in academics, in sports, or in life. Adults who say those kinds of words are doing a great disservice to children.

When I posted the linked article above on Twitter, one of my Twitter colleagues reinforced my thinking when she tweeted this reply to me: Jodi Meadows, PhD‏ @drjodimeadows Replying to @dederittman "I teach honors college freshman. They have nearly no experience with failure. It’s devastating when they hit the academic wall at transition."

I believe that kids need to lose sometimes.  As I look back at my life, I remember many times I did not win.  Sometimes, I did not put enough effort into the project, so it was my fault.  Lesson learned- if you want to win and excel, you must put the time and effort into your dream.  Sometimes, I lost when it wasn't my fault., like 7th grade cheerleader tryouts. (For the record, I could never do a split.) I wasn't the best or the worst, but I recall looking at the list of team names of the girls who were selected, thinking that most of those chosen had a connection to the school, through a faculty or school board member.  I specifically remember discussing this with my wise mother, who  explained that sometimes, even when you work hard, you will not win, because of circumstances beyond your control.  Although that was a difficult lesson to learn at age 12, that knowledge helped me to understand many future events in my life, when politics and nepotism reigned over simply choosing the best candidate.

Parents and teachers and coaches must stop coddling young people and filling their heads with the "everybody is a winner" philosophy.  Kids need to learn that it is OK  if they are not in first place every time.  Participation trophies should be thrown out.  Kids need to learn that win or lose, life goes on, and that regardless of how bright they are, life will sometimes make them come in last place.  Losing, like failure, offers many lessons.

I urge all educators to share and discuss this insightful article.Students need to learn that failure and success are not polar opposites, but rather that failure can be an igniter for success.  They just need adults to explain how failure and losing can be beneficial to learning and success. We owe it to our children to teach this concept in order to ease their anxiety. The greatest amateur golfer of all time, Bobby Jones, summed it up in this quote: "I never learned a thing from a tournament I won." 

As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. 

Rittman Publishing, LLC ®

Please invite Grady Gets Glasses (and me) into your school.  if you are not in the Pittsburgh area, we do virtual field trips with a group called Field Trip Zoom.  GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit  

Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required readingSigned copies are available Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics. 

I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books.  Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self.  However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired! 

Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom.  Check them out! 

Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book.  I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading.  Please email me at  The website now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!

Please like Dede's new page Grady Gets Glasses for updates about her children's book. 

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