Expanding the Capacity Bubble

Monday, January 13, 2014 - By: Bud Patel

Prior to Winter Break, a number of students attended the Victoria TEDx Conference. We were inspired by stories of remarkable people doing great things. One of our favorites of the day was Adam Kreek – Canadian Olympic Rower, gold medalist in Beijing (teammate of Malcolm Howard, Ellis ’01), and trans-Atlantic rower. His message to the packed auditorium was about learning from failure: finishing second in a race, pushing yourself to ‘failure', setting out to achieve a goal, like rowing across the Atlantic, and failing to achieve it.

For Kreek, failure is a happy place…a fun place…a place where you find the circumference of what he calls “your capacity bubble”.  This is a noble notion; however, in today’s achieve-at-all-costs, everyone-gets-a-ribbon, mark-inflated world, is his theory still realistic?  Failure today is often not an option.

As parents, you received your child’s report card over the holidays; it outlined their achievement over the fist term. There were house reports, art and athletics commentary, and even an advisor report, but most of us quickly gravitate to the academic results – exam and Term 1 marks. While many of our students did exceedingly well, some did not achieve what they hoped for. There are many factors that make up a “mark” - assignments, tests, quizzes, group work, exam, etc. As a faculty, we hope that the anecdotal comments provide context, kudos, and key areas of improvement. 

This final element is, perhaps, the most important. Students have completed a body of work that has been assessed in both formative and summative manners and voila – here are the results. What they are and what we do with this information is key.  

That is Adam Kreek’s message. How will we take the teachers’ suggestions and make the necessary changes? How will we "learn from our failure"? How will we move from a blame-others mindset to the empowering position of ownership and responsibility?

The Brentwood experience provides a safe and self-motivated learning journey that will, at times, push students out of their comfort zone. Only then, as Adam Kreek reflects, will we know the new limit of our capacity bubble.

Bud Patel, Head of School

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