We Can Achieve Success Even in the Presence of Failure

by Dr. Scott Andersen in , ,

Failure doesn’t have to always end badly. I had an example of that today when I decided to spend my Saturday traveling from my home in Vineyard, UT to visit the Spiral Jetty, a very unique art project.

Spiral Jetty is an earthwork sculpture constructed in April 1970 by American sculptor Robert Smithson.

Built on the northeastern shore of the Great Salt Lake near Rozel Point in Utah entirely of mud, salt crystals, and basalt rocks, Spiral Jetty forms a 1,500-foot-long, 15-foot-wide counterclockwise coil jutting from the shore of the lake.

A professional photographer friend from Oklahoma recently told me about it and challenged me, since I live in Utah, to go visit and photograph it. I decided that today was the day to go see it. So I packed all my camera gear and drone for aerials shots, and made the 140 mile journey to the jetty.

The first 100 miles were on interstate highway. The last 40 would be a journey through the “boonies” of northern Utah. All that I could see on the drive was mountains, snow, animals and more snow. Did I mention snow?

As I was getting closer to the jetty, I was getting excited about seeing it.

However, at about mile 131, I ran into a roadblock. Or should I say no road at all.

When my GPS was telling me it was time to turn right, I was driving up to the sign you see here in the photo. I was excited for just a very brief moment when I saw that the sign said I only had 9 miles to go. But, I quickly realized there was a BIG PROBLEM.

There was no road on which to turn.

I had driven all this way only to be foiled by mother nature and a very snow-heavy winter. The dirt road that makes the final 9-mile leg of the drive to the jetty, is not maintained. When I stepped off to the side of the road, I sunk into the snow up to my waist.

There would be no “free-styling” or creating my own path in this deep snow.

As the same time I was out of my car standing by the sign and looking incredulously at the lack of a road, a couple drove up to the sign and were just as surprised and disappointed as was I upon discovering circumstance. They were grumbly and complaining.

It was at this moment that I made the decision that this journey was not going to be in vain. So I greeted them, laughed about it with them, and made the decision that I was going to still take pictures today, even if there weren’t of the jetty.

So I turned my car around on the snow-packed road and began driving back. As I did so, I paid particular attention to all of the beautiful scenery that I had missed on the way there because I was so focused on getting to the destination.

I was able to see wild animals, a couple hunting on the side of the road, the Golden Spike monument where the easterly and westerly railroad met, and I found an amazing mineral stream that had beautiful rich colors.

So on the drive home, I took my time and I stopped several times to makes some beautiful pictures. It is even possible that these pictures could have been better than what I would have been able to make at the jetty.

And while I was not able to complete my original goal for the day, I was able to make it a great journey. I also have something to look forward to. When the snow melts, I will make the journey again and be able to finally see and photograph the jetty.

While this is a light-hearted example, it does remind us that we do not have to let failure reign. We can look it straight in the eyes, chuckle, and then make new decisions that can positively impact our situations.

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” 


by Dr. Scott Andersen in , , , ,

It has been snowing a lot here in Utah this winter. This past week we had a most beautiful snow fall. The video does not even do it justice.


Big fluffy flakes floating, falling and finding a place of rest on a pine tree.

Here is a universal truth: Every snowflake is unique. 

From a distance, it is a most beautiful sight to see the snow collecting on the trees.

I started looking closely at the snowflakes as they were landing on a beautiful pine tree. I noticed when they landed softly on the pine needles, they kept their shape, form and beauty.

But as I looked closely, I began to observe something that I would have never seen had I not taken the time to get closer.

The closer I looked, I was able to see that the longer the flakes sat there, the individual snowflakes began to melt into small drops of water. It wasn’t just one flake; it was many.

The drops then tried to cling to a pine needle in one last attempt to survive.

Then sadly, under the force of gravity, the individual drops fell to the ground and were no longer distinguishable.

They had transformed from a most beautiful and proud fluffy flake, to melting and falling to the ground, becoming lost.

Because I am an educator, I could not help but draw a parallel between what I was witnessing with the snowflakes and what I have witnessed with children in education.

Just like each snowflake is unique, so is every single child we teach.

Similar to how the snowflakes float from the sky down to the pine tree with great beauty and potential, so do our children come to us with bright eyes, open minds, eager hearts and with great excitement and capacity to learn.

And from a distance, the vision of what happens in school can be heartwarming for our children. Teachers teach, students learn, play and grow and many of them graduate and are successful.

All of that is true.

But when we look closely at individual children, we can see a different story for some of them. Unfortunately, we can see a different story for far too many of them.

We can see them melting in an environment that is not suitable for their success. Just like when the snowflakes all land on the same tree and even on the same pine needle, when some students land in the same class, the same delivery of instruction, the same sequence of curriculum, the same timing, the same assessment, they can melt, and like a drop of water falling to the ground, become lost.

They are lost for so many reasons: they may not have been equipped to learn like some of their peers, they may have difficulty with their sight, they may have challenges hearing, they may not have adequate food to eat, they may have a learning disability, they could have physical or mental disabilities, they may have different likes and dislikes, and one of the worst reasons they can get lost is they may not have a good school or even a good teacher. I know that is not a popular thing to say, but it can be true.

While from a distance we can see that many students are successful - something we should celebrate, we cannot be truly successful until we have ensured that each student who walks through our doors, is able to achieve individual success.

Just like I was observing the falling and landing of the snowflakes and them melting and dropping to the ground, I believe we must look closely at what we are doing for each child. While looking is important, it is not enough. We also need to be equipped to respond with personalized pathways for children that put them on THEIR UNIQUE road to success.

Many students will thrive in a traditional learning setting. Many will not. Some thrive with direct instruction. Some thrive with hands-on learning. Some thrive working on real-world projects. Some thrive in small or individual settings. Some thrive with self-paced online learning. Some thrive in blended learning environments. Some thrive with combinations of the above. Some thrive in ways that we have not yet discovered.

My purpose of writing this is to encourage all of us to look closer. Even closer. And closer some more!

We need to look closer at our students to truly know them and we must look closer at ourselves and ask if we are really providing pathways and opportunities that help each child thrive or have we unfortunately made decisions based upon reasons that do not relate to students succeeding.

The snow is gently falling again. Students are going to keep coming into your schools. Let’s work together to give them a chance to thrive on the pine needle in their own special way and let’s prevent them from falling to the ground and getting lost.

Let me know if you would like to discuss further.

News Snaps from Waaaay Back

by Dr. Scott Andersen in ,

In another life, I was a photographer and photo editor for the Associate Press. After discovering a box of old prints from the 80s, I have pulled the selection below to revisit my photojournalism memory lane.  Sadly, I have very few of the news pix I have taken.

Oh well, go with what you got!

It's A Baby...Lizard

by Dr. Scott Andersen in , , ,

Today I was visiting one of my schools in West Palm Beach, FL.  While there, one of the PK teachers came to me excitedly and asked me to come to her room to see a baby lizard that had just hatched.  Apparently, her class found the egg on on the playground some time ago (I am not sure how long ago). 

Today just happened to be the day the egg hatched. Everyone, especially the children we so happy to see it!

Of course, after all had a chance to take a look, the class released the baby lizard back into its natural habitat on the playground.