Terry Fox – Leader, Inspiration….what badge would he get?

I’ve been thinking about a Failure Badge. Last week I was in a Make and Create Google Hangout with Ian O’Byrne, Fred Mindlin, Greg McVerry,  John Duhring and Per from Pandora  (Jewellery yes) Ian has blogged about his reflections of the hangout and the chat that continued into the ConnectedLearningTV’s Webinar on Open Badges.

However – it was Ian’s post about a “Failure Badge” and what it might signify that has me thinking.

In Canada this month we celebrate one our heroes, his name was Terry Fox. Nearly every school has a Terry Fox run which raises money for cancer.  Why?

Well, briefly for those who don’t know Terry’s story, Terry had cancer.  But that wasn’t all that Terry was – someone with cancer. Terry was an amazing athlete, especially a basketball player. At first, the cancer was only in his leg, and so the doctors amputated his leg. Even this fact would devastate many – an active athlete, now without a leg. However, as I said, Terry wasn’t “just” an amazing athlete or someone with cancer. In 1981, Terry decided to complete the Marathon of Hope. The Hope Stood for his fight against cancer as well as the hope of thousands of other cancer patients. By starting in Newfoundland he trekked his way across Canada, by running on one leg, to promote cancer awareness and “Hope”.


Unfortunately Terry’s cancer came back to his lungs – and he only made it to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Click on the MAP to see the distance and geography in Canada. In fact, nine months after he had to stop his race, he died of cancer.

While Terry may have felt that he failed – he was actually a hero who ignited a country’s pride and hope for a cure for cancer. Like I said in the start of the post, every September in Canada,  schools across the country and communities organize Terry Fox runs. I have also participated in Terry Fox runs in France! It’s even International!

When I asked my daughter if Terry Fox had failed, she said of course not! Terry Fox was a national hero who has inspired many other Canadians and taught us about cancer! What a ridiculous thing to say. Because it’s true – he didn’t fail! He represents the idea that you have to try and great ideas will overcome all odds!  His dreams have persevered through others.

He didn’t finish his run – instead, he shared his passion for hope and his desire to make a difference.

I think that’s what a “Failure Badge” – in the context of Ian’s post is all about. Trying something, sharing the experience with others and trying to make a difference. Terry is a great example of why failure is a good thing – without Terry’s risk taking, drive and leadership – Canadians would have very different September memories and Cancer research would never had had the same support.  I think “Failure” can promote “hope” and possibility.

While we are not all like Terry, our goal as educators, parents, leaders and mentors is to make a difference and share our passion. I am looking forward to working with Ian to create some kind of digital collaboration to share our failures – because it really means, sharing our passion for learning, innovation and trying new things.

What do you think?

Verena 🙂

One thought on “Terry Fox – Leader, Inspiration….what badge would he get?

  1. Sean Beaton

    Hi Verena,

    I agree with much of what you wrote here. I agree that Terry Fox definitely inspires hope. His journey has gone far beyond his run across eastern Canada to Thunder Bay.

    For me, I think the most significant thing about failure for students, is that they understand they are safe to fail. That’s the first step. Educators and parents must ensure the students know they will be OK if they do not succeed the first time. We must redefine the word “fail.” The second thing, which you touched on a bit, is that we must help students work through and reflect upon the process they went through. This goes back to what John Dewey wrote about in the early decades of the 20th Century (see my post http://wp.me/p3e25A-3) regarding primary and secondary educational experiences. Dewey said that no experience will be educational unless students are given an opportunity to reflect upon the experience and examine what they did and how they felt. I think that is why we need to promote frequent attempts in learning.

    Have a great day!

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