Mistakes Can Be Opportunities

No one likes to make mistakes. Making mistakes can invite uncomfortable feelings of guilt and shame. Those feelings result in students (and most of us) thinking about mistakes in ways that aren’t helpful. Students may think that mistakes are “bad” or that others will laugh at them if they do something wrong. They may work really hard to try not to make any mistakes – to be perfect. These thoughts and feelings invite students to feel discouraged or to give up.2015-05-Lakeridge-14

As an educator you know that learning requires making some mistakes. Can you imagine learning math or how to spell if you couldn’t make mistakes? It also requires taking one more step: learning from our mistakes. Creating a classroom where mistakes are opportunities to learn helps students take responsibility and develop a growth mindset conducive to learning. Here are some ideas:

  • Be transparent about your own mistakes and invite students to help you find the repair. “Whoops, I made a mistake. How can I fix it?”
  • Teach and model the process of repairing a mistake.
    • Regather: Make sure both of you are calm.
    • Recognize: Own your part of the problem.
    • Reconcile: Briefly express regret. Don’t make excuses.
    • Resolve: Share with the other person what you will do to prevent the problem in the future.
  • Celebrate instructional mistakes (yours and theirs). Create a community where it is safe to learn from the mistakes made in math and reading.
  • When students make a mistake, focus on how they can fix it instead of the mistake itself.
  • Remind students that anytime we learn, we will make mistakes and that is different than being a mistake (being stupid, lazy, careless).
  • Have a class discussion about what mistakes mean to your students and what kind of self-talk they use when they make a mistake. Help them find new words so that they can learn from their mistakes.