Teaching with Star Wars: Learning from Failure in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Luke Skywalker discovers a powerful lesson that can be valuable to your own younglings.

Looking for an activity that’s fun, engaging, and educational? Each week, Teaching with Star Wars will offer unique lessons for you and your younglings that promise to foster opportunities for discovery and learning, all through the lens of a galaxy far, far away. And it sounds like the bell just rang, so let’s head to the classroom now. Punch it, Chewie!

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker is frustrated. He just wants to be left alone on Ahch-To, but Rey won’t leave. She is determined to recruit him to help the Resistance defeat Kylo Ren and the First Order. After all, he is the famous Jedi Knight that helped bring about the end of the Empire. He’s kind of a big deal.

Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi

But Luke doesn’t see it that way. Not anymore. He’s much too busy feeling sorry for himself. From his point of view, even with all of his talent and accomplishments, he was not able to teach his nephew to resist the pull of the dark side and become a Jedi. Why would he want to go down that path again, this time with a new student? He is having a hard time overcoming his perceived failure. 

Yoda and Luke in The Last Jedi

However, someone much wiser than him has a different perspective: Master Yoda. Yoda tells him, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” But what does that mean? How can failure teach you anything? If you mess up, does that mean you are not good enough? 

Of course not! Failure is the best teacher because it teaches you how not to do something. Those mistakes are actually springboards that can catapult you to try things in a different way. What Yoda is telling Luke is that just because it did not work the first time, does not mean that it will happen every time, or that it defines him. Luke just has to look at this situation differently, and maybe, there will be a different result.

Luke and Rey in The Last Jedi

Naturally, that is easier said than done. Everyone fails. Everyone makes mistakes. But it is how we overcome these obstacles that allow us to grow and learn. If you avoid your perceived failure, how will you ever learn to do it better?

With Luke Skywalker as an example, ask your Padawan to reflect and journal on the following questions:

  • What is scary about failing? Is it worse to fail, or worse not to be good at something the first time?
  • What subject in school is the most challenging for you? Why? What can help you to find a different approach to the material?
  • Why is avoiding something that is difficult a bad idea? How does that add to your frustration?

The Resistance in The Last Jedi

The Resistance finds a way to combat the biggest obstacle in the galaxy, the First Order, and when Luke Skywalker learns to accept his failure, he realizes he can help his friends. Encourage your student to resist his or her biggest challenge, the fear of failure, so that he or she can take on the subject, skill, or task that is the most daunting for them and change the course of their own galaxy. Don’t let that inner voice steer you away from what you know to be true: failing only means you have not figured out how to do it better…yet!

Dan Zehr is the host and brand director of Coffee With Kenobi, a podcast that examines the mythology of Star Wars from a place of intelligence and humor. He is also a high school English teacher with an MS in Teaching and Learning.

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