Emily Swing, Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Elementary Education, Dual Major


As another class of School of Education students has graduated and is starting the journey into education, senior Emily Swing, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Elementary Education, Dual Major, shares her experience from her time as a student. 


A brilliant author once said “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well of not lived at all- in which case, you fail by default.” The truth in this quote is not only relatable to our everyday experiences, but also what every passionate educator wishes to instill in each of their students. As educators, we encourage each child we encounter to take risks, try everything at least once, and attempt to instill self-confidence that even if they fail, it is okay. Yet, I have found, as adults we rarely take this advice ourselves. How many classrooms have we walked in that have the wonderful acronym FAIL: First Attempt In Learning? If any of you are like me, you love this. What’s better than teaching our students that failing is just part of the journey? Living that acronym, that is what is better. If our students only see us teaching this sentiment, but not living it, it has no foundation to stand on. 

I have not had the typical “college experience” by any means. I first started my college career at a community college for the fall semester and then headed off to Appalachian State in the spring back in 2013. Appalachian, at the time, was my dream school and I was elated to begin my four-year journey there that I had always planned. After about a month of being there, I was still in love with Boone and Appalachian, but it was very clear to me that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be and I was miserable. So I called my wonderfully supportive parents, and they came and brought me home. My entire plan I had for my life crumbled in less than a month. I had failed myself, and had a very difficult time dealing with it – until I found myself on UNCG’s campus, and I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.

I have had nothing but a phenomenal experience as a Spartan and truly feel like UNCG will always feel like home. I had reflected numerous times over the last four years about how grateful I am that I had failed myself, because it brought me here. I grew so much not only as a person through this experience, but also as a student. I was able to mature and realize just how imperative it was that I believed in myself in order to achieve true success in life and in academia.

With all of this being said, I had never shared my story with a student before. That was until I was completing my high school special education placement this past fall. Sitting in a classroom full of freshmen at a Title I school, whose average GPA upon graduation was a 2.4, one student spoke up with a statement that brought tears to my eyes. She said, “What’s the point in me trying for four years in this place when the people who do actually make it to graduation, can’t go to college with a GPA like this? We are just going to be failures anyways.” She didn’t learn this mentality overnight. What’s worse, I had absolutely no words to say back to her. As I sat in the room with my cooperating teacher, I was trying to find some way to make these students know that failing does not define their future, IF they make something better out of the failure.

The only thing I could think of was to share my failure. As I was telling them, I saw continued defeat, but also some relief come across their faces. I received many questions from that classroom that day but a note that I received later from one of my students changed my entire perspective on my teaching style. The note read “Ms. Swing, thank you for being open about failing and making mistakes. I thought that people only fail when they aren’t able to be successful. I think I may have a chance.” That last sentence is the entire reason I became a teacher. To make my students know they have a chance. I have a feeling that most of us in this room feel the exact same way. But in order to do this, we HAVE to show them that we fail, yet we still made it.

So as we leave as new graduates of a phenomenal School of Education to either enter into our very own classrooms for the first time or to return to the profession we love, remember this. Teaching them is important, but living what we teach is far more important. So teach them to believe in themselves. Teach them that failing is okay as long as you keep trying. But more than that, show them that adults fail, and still become successful adults. Be transparent with them. You may be the only person that shows them that they are worth more than their failures.