Failing Forward

By Tom Trocano, head of Upper School

Nobody likes to fail. I certainly don’t, but as I look back on my life, there is absolutely no doubt I have learned more from and become a better person because of my failures. My background as a student, scientist and educator has reinforced the value of failure. My experience as an athlete, a coach, a teacher, a leader, a human being and a division head at LJCDS during a pandemic has reinforced the inevitability of failure. 

How we view, respond to and recover from failure is a critical component of who we are and who we will become. It can make an enormous difference in our development as human beings and leaders. Fear of failure can be an obstacle to progress and even achieving greatness. We must all acknowledge that failure is natural, acceptable, provides knowledge and opportunity, and is key to establishing how you will respond when you inevitably confront it. One of the most beautiful lessons in athletic competition is that you can put forth an enormous effort, do everything right, and still not achieve the outcome you worked to earn. Life is like that sometimes, and we have to learn to win with class and lose with class. 

In addition to experiencing success, building confidence and learning to collaborate, a classroom should be a safe place to fail and learn humility. The classroom is a place to realize that there are always better ideas, different ways to solve problems and interpret information, explore alternate ideas, and communicate with others. Although it can sometimes feel that way, classroom failure shouldn’t be devastating with regard to the outcome. As educators, we must continually search for ways to help our students reap the benefits without fearing the experience. Helping our students to be courageous about facing the possibility of failure, letting the lessons learned shape their character, and allowing them to develop the resilience to respond with renewed dedication for success, what some call grit, may be the most valuable things they could take with them to face what lies ahead. 

How many times do we focus so much on the outcome that we lose sight of the process? I hope we will continue to move away from the transactional aspects of education and toward emphasizing the transformational opportunities the experience can provide. LJCDS is rich in those opportunities if you seek them out or let them come to you. Our faculty believe in and love their students. 

Where better for students to experience and reap the benefits of failure than high school, where they are surrounded by friends and adults who have dedicated themselves to accompanying and supporting them as they experience and grow from it?

Furthering this perspective requires trust and partnership. Trust that our expert and incredibly caring educators have your children’s best interests at heart and that partnership among parents, students, faculty and staff will allow students to maximize the joys of success as well as the benefits of failure and become lifelong learners. Throughout my career as a teacher, coach and leader, I have dedicated myself to this goal and look forward to working with our community as we strive to realize it.

Tom Trocano
Tom Trocano

Head of Upper School

Tom Trocano felt an immediate connection to the LJCDS community during his first visit in December 2018. As head of Upper School, he is intimately involved in all aspects of the LJCDS experience. He considers the overarching values of dignity, inclusivity, teamwork and teaching excellence to be essential components of his being. Mr. Trocano has found that LJCDS students are confident, open and willing to engage in conversation; LJCDS faculty are dedicated, creative, knowledgeable and caring; and LJCDS parents are generously supportive of the school and are willing to work as part of a partnership in the best interests of their children.

Restorative Justice/Practices
Embracing Uncertainty

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