How many times can you afford to fail?

Blogging? As a class requirement?

Ugh…one more writing task for a doctoral student muddling through the process of writing the dissertation chapters! As excited as I am about my research, I find the day to day struggle of articulating my research findings and improvising the writings of my papers in a scholarly fashion (currently working on the thirty-seventh draft) to be exhausting. Relative to that, blogging sounds exciting. All I have to do is express my thoughts!  It cannot be that hard ! I can stop being an Economist for a while–  such a relief!

Since setting up the blog last Friday night (while bailing on my fellow graduate students and the first happy hour of the semester), all I have been doing is “blogging”…in my mind!

…sitting by the pond and talking with the ducks as my imaginary students,

…going over my twitter feed and having an outburst on Sara’s reply,

…having a serious conversation with a fellow coworker about our passion for teaching on Saturday afternoon over sushi,

I had been bubbling with excitement…thinking of WHAT I would write, HOW would I write it, WHY I would bring up my passion (and predicament, too!)  about learning and teaching, relevant REFERENCES I might incorporate in my blog post etc…when suddenly out of the foggy memories from the past, a quote by Thomas Carlyle from the Series of Great Ideas of Western Man emerged :

“… let each become all that he was created capable of being: expand, if possible, to his full growth; and show himself at length in his own shape and stature, be these what they may.”

I have found this quote profound and extremely relatable to the concept  of “Rethinking Learning” according to Dr. Michael Wesch’s TEDx talk. Cultivating unique learning opportunities with an understanding and acknowledgment of the unique potential can bring enormous value and enhance the educational experiences of the learners. While we consider learning outcome to be a function of the number of students in a classroom setting, meaningful interaction between the educators and students, time spent in learning etc. , we would all agree that the process of learning is highly heterogeneous and that the associated learning curve varies from learner to learner.

As I, an economist studying decision-making, have been trying to write, one question has continually bothered me is:  How many failed attempts could a learner afford? From the perspective of a learner, when we enter a classroom or a learning space, we not only bring in our passion, excitement and ambition, but also the tremendous burden of payment for school and getting a job after graduation. As Graduate students, we face inordinate challenges and pressure throughout the process of learning and thriving as professionals. The learning brain is often constrained by such challenges and creates reverse tolerance of failures. As much as I enjoyed baby George making his final leap after falling off numerous times each failure throughout the graduate school experience, often comes with an overwhelming cost of staying additional time in school and an associated loss of earnings both of which add to the existing burden that we carry with us until we reach the peak of our full potential, as a part of the educational experience.

Can we overlook these factors at play? At the end of the day, aren’t we all trying to make the best out of the situation given our constraints? Isn’t it about how many times and to what extent of failure we are able to afford?