Hello Educators! The journey continues as we learn more from Mr. Bowlin, a 4th-grade teacher and coach at Saint Mark’s School in St. Paul, MN.

Reminder: Mr. Bowlin has shared a series of letters/communications that he writes (weekly) to the parents/guardians of his 4th grade students. The clarity of these letters in articulating Top 20 concepts and his use/hope for them in his classroom is astounding. Mr. Bowlin is a true Top 20 Teacher.

These communications are a great way to not only share the information being covered in the classroom, but to also provide deeper insights to the material in hopes that it is carried on at home.


Please read, learn, share, and check back for future entries!


Top 20: Fail Harder?

Success is easy to embrace, while failure is often viewed as an obstacle preventing us from achieving a goal. This week, we continued our Top 20 unit on Mistakes by examining the positive and necessary aspects of failure as well as why human beings have developed a fear of failure. We watched a motivational video about an athlete that completely embraced the idea of learning from mistakes by pushing himself beyond his limits. From this video, we took away the idea that with hard work and persistent effort and an attitude that mistakes challenge us to become better, we know we can train ourselves to learn anything. When we look for the easy way out, we aren’t pushing ourselves or embracing the idea that failure forces us to grow. With a growth mindset, we know that in order to get better, we have to push ourselves to fail harder.

Everything that we have learned was something we once struggled with and viewed as a challenge. However, through the struggle of making mistakes and trying again more intelligently, we found a way to make things that were once difficult easier. When posed with the question, “What are some things that once seemed challenging but now are easier?” our answers included riding a bike, learning to walk, tying our shoes, learning to ice-skate, doing multiplication, learning to swim, etc. This led into a discussion about a “childlike” approach to learning.

At some point in our lives, we shift away from the methods we took to learn what are now ordinary tasks like riding a bike or learning to walk. As a child, our willingness to try even when failure is inevitable is admirable. When we make a mistake, it is celebrated and we are encouraged by others to try again. We have a relentless will to accomplish our goal and quickly bounce back from failure to give it another try. Unfortunately, at some point we lose this “childlike” approach to learning. We become embarrassed by mistakes, try to avoid them, and develop self-doubt about our abilities. Our fear of failure limits our potential, but the best learners choose to look at mistakes, adversity, and failure as opportunities to grow and further develop skills.

This week, fourth graders were encouraged to seek out situations in which they would be challenged. A student who doesn’t make mistakes is a student who isn’t getting better. Our classroom is becoming a place where mistakes and confusion are celebrated so that we can succeed as lifelong learners.

Mr. Patrick Bowlin

Saint Mark’s School

St. Paul, MN