Sadly enough, many young students believe that they are not supposed to make mistakes. They believe when they make mistakes there is something wrong with them. They believe adults do not make mistakes and smart kids do not make mistakes. Every mistake becomes a lessening of their self-worth and they live with the fear of future mistakes and the guilt of past mistakes. This is a false and harmful concept to instill in our students.
The truth is that everyone makes mistakes; great learning can occur from mistakes; and guilt is needed only in those moments of refection before an action. It should also be true that schools are about learning and learning from mistakes is a very natural way to learn. While it is natural and acceptable to make mistakes, it is neither natural nor acceptable to fail to learn from mistakes. This concept needs to be taught and modeled to students and become an accepted part of the school curriculum and culture.
The fear and anxiety over making mistakes are great stressors on underachieving and disruptive students. They quit trying to give the answer, participate in the activity, or have others see their eforts for fear of making a mistake. They have enough problems to solve without having to be stressed over an expectation that is impossible to meet. It is better for students to know they can "pick themselves up after a fall" than to fear ever falling. Learning from mistakes and negative consequences is a life-long endeavor and should be nurtured in the school.
A computer technology teacher observed that if a student did something correctly the frst time, he often forgot what he did. But, if he made a mistake and learned what he did wrong, he remembered the correct way. This is exactly why using problem solving is so important if we hope to teach students to learn from mistakes. It allows the student to see where (and perhaps why) the error occurred, and they will remember the correct way.
The mindset and practice of using mistakes for learning is not without exception or opposition. The exceptions include the breaking of laws or any actions that cause great harm to self or others. These types of mistakes are certainly not acceptable. An opposing argument is that schools should mirror life as much as possible and that life does not give second chances. The stand we need to take is to let law enforcement do what they believe is necessary, but the school should still try to teach the student to problem solve and learn. Secondly, life is tough, but school is an institution dedicated to learning. Every child should have at least one safe place to make mistakes, and school is the ideal place.
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