Friday, March 24, 2017

At What Point Failure?

Don was an older math teacher at a barrio school in Southern California where I was a counselor. A reserved kind of guy, he kept to himself, though he was cordial and got along well with his department and others.

As a counselor, I had lunch supervision duty and Don’s class was in my assigned area of the campus. Any given day, I noticed a steady stream of kids going into and out of his classroom all during lunch. At first, I thought kids had just gathered there, but I was wrong.

I asked Don what was happening and he explained that he didn’t allow his students to fail. No one! Each student could retake a test as many times as they wanted . . . until the student achieved a passing grade. I asked him why and his answer surprised me. Don asked me, “What does an F tell me? Nothing!”

Don had a reputation of high expectations and big demands. Counselors in that district also handled discipline referrals and honestly, I don’t remember ever receiving one from Don. I checked with the principal, who I consider my mentor and friend to this day, and Bill stated that Don was one of the best teachers he had ever worked with. He invited me to do an observation with him, so one day, I joined him.

Kids were busy! Kids taught other kids! There were groups. Don never sat down unless he was with a group going over problems. He moved from one to another and in the 45 minutes (a seven period day) we were there, kids were on task and engaged.

The kids? I recognized kids from three active gangs who were on campus and all of them were rivals. They worked with one another. They taught each other and learned from each other. Don’s philosophy was simple, “Leave the gang crap at the door. We’re here to learn math and that’s what you’ll do.”

The kids in Don’s class didn’t fail. Not one. Each kid progressed to the next level and beyond, and many came back to Don for help or tutoring. Some, just to visit. Don welcomed them all.

I saw an interesting interview with author J.K. Rowling, who spoke about her life and about failure. You can find it here:

There were several comments that stuck out and I’ll do my best to paraphrase: “Rock bottom became the foundation.” “I was rejected, but I never quit.” “Some might say I was a failure.”

J.K. Rowling a failure? Seriously?

In actuality, what author hasn’t been rejected? What manuscript hasn’t been rejected a time or two? William Golding and “Lord Of The Flies” was rejected 20 times. John le CarrĂ©’sThe Spy Who Came in from the Cold” was passed on because le CarrĂ© “hasn’t got any future.”Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times before it was published. Anne Frank’sThe Diary of a Young Girl” was rejected 15 times before it was published.Carrie” by Stephen King was rejected 30 times before it was published.Animal Farm” by George Orwell was rejected because “there is no market for animal stories in the USA.” And of course, J.K. Rowling’sHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was rejected 12 times and she was told “not to quit her day job.” There are many others.

These authors, like our math teacher, Don, have one thing in common: they never gave up. They didn’t quit on themselves and in Don’s case, he didn’t quit on his kids and he didn’t allow them to quit on themselves.

So I ask you this question, and I think it’s an important one . . . At What Point Failure? And before you answer, I give you a word of caution . . . by quitting now you will never know how close you are to success! I guess there can be failure at some point. Failure might be when we quit. Something to think about . . .

To My Readers:

I just finished my fifth work of thriller/mystery fiction, Caught In A Web and it’s currently being edited. I’ll keep you posted as to when it will be published.

Please feel free to connect with me at:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

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If you like Thriller/Mystery fiction, check out my novels:

Available on Amazon for .99 the Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Agent Kelliher and two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out.

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved.

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them.

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
It began in Arizona with death and it ends in Arizona in death. A 14 year old boy has a price on his head, but he and his family don’t know it. Their family vacation turns into a trip to hell. Out gunned and outnumbered, can this boy protect his father and brothers? Without knowing who these men are? Or how many there are? Or when they might come for him?

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Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe