Dear student who’s afraid to try and fail,
God created you in His own image. You are valuable because your Maker is King of the Universe, Designer of Life, All-Knowing, Ever-present Genius, Most High and Most Loving.
You are loved apart from your efforts. You are cared for even before you try to do anything right. You became special to me as soon as you stepped into the classroom because I know the Lord has made you and He has planned for you and I to be part of each other’s lives for this year and hopefully in the years to come.
You are wonderful. But like everyone, like me, there is still much to learn. Some things will be easy to understand but many skills can take lots of practice before you can actually master them.
Have I ever told you about my learning how to drive? It was the last thing I wanted to do. When I was your age, I told my Mom I would never learn to cook or drive because I would be so rich that I would just hire a driver and a cook. That’s not what happened.
I needed to learn to drive and I didn’t like my driving lessons because I felt like I knew nothing. I had zero skill and zero knowledge. I felt dumb.
I asked people to pray for me. I prayed. And even though I didn’t want to, I booked my lessons, showed up every time, listened to my instructor and practiced, practiced, practiced.
Let me tell you, I was scared.
I see it when you’re scared too. Sometimes, you get teary-eyed. Sometimes, you get angry. But I know you’re really just afraid to try and fail.
But hey – that’s to be expected. Trying and failing is part of learning.
I know, failing sounds negative.
The great inventor, Thomas Edison, has wonderful quotes about it:
Do you think he invented the electric light bulb in just one go? No… here’s what he said of his many attempts:
‘I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’
And look at how close failure and success are to each other:
Please don’t give up when we’ve only just begun. When I tell you, ‘You can do it’, I mean it with my whole heart. Our Lord has gifted you with so much and I am very excited to see all that you can be and all you can achieve if you just try.
And a final word from Mr Edison:
‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’
Learning takes work. People who have studied how students learn have found that it usually takes 4 experiences before you can really understand a concept and about 21 experiences before you can master a skill. That’s a lot! But time is what we have and your teachers do their best to plan experiences that help you.
I’m also reminded of Jesus’ words:
‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor but the sick.’
Jesus is talking about how He has come to save us sinners from our sins but we can also think about school in a similar way. School is not for those who already know and can do everything.
Those who have much to learn are the ones who need a teacher. Everyone in class has still so much to find out about God’s world and it is my privilege to be your teacher.
Would you please trust me to guide you in your learning? I promise to be honest and humble, recognising that I too don’t know everything.
Would you please allow me to show you how things work? I promise to be patient when you don’t get it the first, second, third or even the fourth time.
Would you please let me help you try and fail however many times until you discover something new? I know the weight of frustration so I promise to be gentle and creative, finding ways to make things clearer.
When I was a student, I never wanted any of my teachers to see my weaknesses. I wanted them to only see how smart and clever I was. I struggled at some points and I am grateful to those teachers who took time and told me it was okay. They retaught me things and I found I became a better learner when I asked questions and was honest about things I didn’t understand.
I love you because God loves you. When you don’t understand, that doesn’t change. You’re still loved. When you don’t get the right answers, that still doesn’t change. You are valued.
I am sorry if the world sometimes whispers a different story to you, saying you are important only when you get it right. The beauty of God’s love is that it proves the world wrong. Here’s the truth: God has made you, saved you and through Him, you can try and fail and still remain in His love.
P.S. I now know how to drive.