If I were to make a list of all the mistakes I have made in my life that have paid dividends – I would have an extremely long list. Everything: a failed engagement, bad , lousy career choices (an ad exec? really, Dawn?), bad lesson plans, hairstyles and prioritizing….all of those things have made me into the person I am today. All of those mistakes have (except for the hairstyles) made me wiser and more informed. In fact, I would guess that many adults I know (and many of you I don’t) would attest that mistakes, actually, make us smarter.
When I was a child, though, I remember distinctly how it felt to make a mistake. I don’t think it had anything to do with my upbringing, but I had a self-imposed rush of adrenaline that would make me very uncomfortable and very wary of ever making a mistake again, especially if it affected other people. Shoot, when I learned to knit (at 34), I must have cried half a dozen times, because I wasn’t getting the hang of it right away. It didn’t feel good, and it’s exhausting. Making mistakes is something that has certainly gotten easier with age.
But there’s a whole bunch of students out there who are afraid to make mistakes. According to this article on Edutopia by Alina Tugend, there’s even a term for it: “victims of excellence.” They don’t want to screw up. The article offers great insight into this issue. It goes beyond making mistakes, though – this issue is also about not being able to achieve perfection.
Remember when a “C” meant “Average”? Now, it seems that it is the equivalent of a F; kids who earn Cs are just not able to cut it. A C is completely unacceptable. One of the only things worse might be an A-; such a thing must just grate on the nerves of students who have this mindset.
It’s unfortunate in so many ways, that there becomes less and less room for mistakes in the worlds of children. How did we get here, I wonder? We cannot allow this generation to function in this way; there needs to be a mind shift somehow that includes drive and creativity, but not a fear of mistakes.
How do you make it “safe” in your classroom for your students to make mistakes?