Own The Mistakes – Embrace The Learning

Last night while driving back from visiting my in-laws, after 5 hours on the road, I realized that we had made a big mistake.  On Friday, my son and I drove 30 miles to my wife’s work to pick her up to save her the time driving home before we left.  It wasn’t until after getting into town that we realized that we forgot to go back to her work to get her car.  This was a big mistake that cost us another hour, at least, on the road after what was already a long day.

We made a mistake.  Even thought it wasted an hour of our day, it was not the end of the world.  We will learn from this and make sure it does not happen again.  It is a learning experience.  If we try to forget about it, we will not learn from it.  This is really evident as this is the 2nd time we have made this mistake and we tried to forget about it the first time due to shame.  But we will not forget about it this time, instead we will learn.

We have to remember that as teachers, we make mistakes.  Mistakes are ok and we can learn from them, we should not hide from them.  I have known teachers who have lost homework assignments or forgot to do something and then made it seem like it was the student’s fault.  We have to be able to learn from our own mistakes and not just push the blame onto someone else.  Show students how you learn from mistakes so they can better understand it themselves.

When we make mistakes, a fixed mindset will view that as an indication of intelligence.  A growth mindset will view it as a learning experience.  We should be using a growth mindset here instead of a fixed.  Mistakes are part of the learning process, and a big part as that.  We need to make sure that our learning environments allow for mistakes to happen and learning to follow.

If your policies or grading rules do not allow students to make mistakes and learn from that, then that is a mistake.  This is why I do not understand why so many people put a huge emphasis on grading homework.  Homework should be viewed as the practice part of learning and a place where mistakes can happen so we can learn from that.  No one gets everything right the first time and by having grading practices in place that do not allow for mistakes to happen, we start to enforce a fixed mindset on our students.  Shouldn’t our grades show what students have learned, not just their first attempt at learning?

I hated grading until I started to change my grading policies to allow students to retake and retry everything.  I also stopped grading homework, I still gave feedback on those practice activities but those did not become a part of their grade.  They could make mistakes, learn from them, and apply them to their next attempt in learning without having the fear that goes along with a grade.  Feedback is so much more poweful than a grade could ever be.  A grade is an ending point but feedback can keep the learning going.  If a student doesn’t understand something on the homework, should they be punished or should they get help?

We also need to stop berating students when they forget something or do something wrong.  I never understood those teachers that would not give a student a pencil if the student forgot one.  In that case you are saying that remembering a pencil is more important than the learning in the classroom for the day.  That student will tend to not ask for help as they may be afraid of getting in trouble if they got something else wrong.  Give the student a pencil, give them the chance to learn.

Mistakes happen, you can either learn from them or hide from them.  Hiding does not lead to learning.  As teachers, we need to make sure our learning environments are ones that encourage learning, not hiding.

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