Fledgling is a stage in a bird’s life between hatching and being able to fly. During this stage, it’s feathers grow longer and wing musculature become stronger in preparation for flight. Not surprisingly, for humans the teenage years can be most analogous to Fledgling. Yet, unlike birds whose external appearance can give away its preparedness for its next stage, it is frequently hard to distinguish those who are pre-fledged, and those who are full-fledged teenagers. That is, until they are faced with struggles.
In general, full-fledged students thrive through their struggles. They are the students who believe success is within reach and those who approach activities, examinations and even struggles more readily, persist longer, and persevere in the face of failures. They are students who have experienced both struggles and were provided time and patience to acquire the ability to overcome them on their own.
On the other hand, pre-fledged students never having been given the responsibility to handle challenges react differently to struggles. They believe that they cannot succeed, give up easily and set low goals for themselves in fear of failure. Pre-fledged students are highlighted by over reliance on adult-figures and the urge to avoid facing struggles and inconveniences by themselves.
As Angel B. Perez writes in his article Want to Get into College? Learn to Fail, “The ability to bounce back is a fundamental life skill students have to learn on their own… Failure is about growth, learning, overcoming, and moving on.” However, the delayed fledging - ability to bounce back from struggles and fly - of our teenagers continues to be a dire issue that affects even their “future leadership development” per Zhengguang Liu et al. according to their most recent research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
The key to helping our students grow their feathers of independence and strengthen their muscles to overcome challenges lies in empowering them by entrusting them. By gradually introducing responsibilities and providing a safety net for students to fail better and fail safer, we increase their self-efficacy - their belief that they have what it takes to accomplish a task. It is therefore unsurprising how the organizational structure at Wanbang allows for leaders, co-leaders and other positions in the dorm rooms, branch activities, volunteer work, classrooms, teams and even weekend choice classes. It is through these numerous positions with varying responsibilities and consequences of failure that our teachers are able to place students, both full-fledged and pre-fledged, to continue to experience both success and failure, growth and reflection, but ultimately thrive.
For birds, once fledged, their chance of survival increases dramatically. Similarly, for teenagers, once they are entrusted to fail, struggle and get back up, they no longer handicap their chances for learning and become empowered to accomplish more. As teachers and parents of teenagers, we must be the ones to remember the wisdom in the title of John C. Maxwell’s book, “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose learn.” It is time to allow our students to fail learn.