I have this posted in my classroom directly behind where I sit. When my students make mistakes, I remind them, “That’s fine, a mistakes doesn’t mean you did badly. A mistake shows me that you tried. It shows me what you know and what you still need to learn.”
However, this quote always puzzles my students when I first hang it up. “That doesn’t make sense!” they shout, outraged. “You can make a mistakes because you didn’t study or because you weren’t paying attention!”
“Ah,” I reply, “But, in order to make the mistake, you had to at least try. Even if you did not give your best effort, you had to try in order to make the mistake. Had you not tried, you would not have made the mistake.”
I’ve been teaching in different classrooms with different students and this year is my 4th year. I find I always have to teach the idea that mistakes are O.K. to my students. I’ve taught from 2nd grade all the way to 12th grade students and no matter the age, they always seem to have this idea in their mind that mistakes = bad.
It’s disheartening really. They are so focused on right answer and wrong answer, they stop worrying all together about what the point of this all is. They don’t understand that in order to learn, you have to make mistakes. The mistakes tell us things. They tell us what we haven’t learned, they tell us what we don’t understand, they tell us what we are strong at and what we’re weak at. And, once I’m able to release my students from this notion that there are only right and wrong answers, you see that they actually start looking at their learning and their progress as opposed to their “mistakes”. They begin to develop an actual personal want to learn, as opposed to learning for fear of being wrong.
I think it’s important for us to do this in our day to day lives as well. To remember that getting things wrong, though frustrating, encourages us to grow and learn and continually develop into the best version of ourselves we can be.
So go off and make yourself some good mistakes this week. And then give yourself a big old high-five for it. A mistake is proof that you tried and you can learn something from it.
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