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Archive for June 14th, 2020

It is not a naturally comfortably thing to be ok with making mistakes, being wrong. It feels like sand in your shoes, that rough tag in your shirt … it makes us itch, squirm. Maybe it even makes us blush, embarrassed, humiliated. Sometimes it even makes us angry … committed to prove ourselves right, never admitting that we made a mistake.

Experience
is simply the name we give
our mistakes.”
Oscar Wilde

Yet, learning to be ok with our wrongs, our mistakes … learning to get up after we fall and trying again … learning to say, I blew it, then learning from our mistakes … that is normal, real-with-skin-on life.

“A person who never made a mistake
never tried anything new.”
Albert Einstein

As an EA (Educational Assistant) in a high school, I work with students who have been wrong so often, they often will do anything to avoid making mistakes. They would rather get in trouble for not doing assignments, than to do them and receive the same old critiques …

  • it’s late
  • you didn’t complete it
  • this is not what the assignment was asking for
  • check spelling next time
  • you didn’t submit it in the right way, the right date, the right font, the right … notice that the message a student often receives is that what they did do isn’t right … and sometimes, for a number of students, their best is not good enough.

“Mistakes are always forgivable
if one has the courage to admit them.”

Bruce Lee

Often the students who I work with have weak ‘head math’ skills. They struggle to understand numbers confidently, resulting in poor addition, subtraction, multiplying and dividing skills. Though they can use calculators, once they know me a bit, I like to ask them if they can do equations in their heads … but in a classroom, where their peers might hear them, they often are so fearful of making a mistake that they won’t try (or maybe, more accurately, they can’t try it, given the anxiety produced).

“If you want to grow,
you need to get over any fear you have
of making mistakes.”

John C. Maxwell

After over two months of online learning a bit of miraculous development has been occurring … they are trying hard things, risking the making of a mistake … they are comfortably trying head math! And their skills are improving!

“In the real world,
the smartest people
are people who make mistakes and learn.
In school,
the smartest people don’t make mistakes.”
Robert T. Kiyosaki

But this new development came from being in an environment where their peers are not right beside them. In this context, they are safe to risk being wrong, and having the confidence in themselves that, if they make a mistake, they can just try again.

“We don’t make mistakes,
we just have happy accidents.”

Bob Ross

It is a good reminder that one way education does not work best for all students. But it is also a good reminder that applies even more broadly to life. Making mistakes is part of life, it is our most helpful tool in learning, but we must have confidence in ourselves, in our environment as a safe place, to be willing to risk those errors, failures. Once we feel safe, within ourselves and our surroundings (and those we share our surroundings with) we are free to to learn from our failures, rather than shrink from them.

“All men make mistakes,
but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

Winston Churchill

Maybe, if we are more aware of those around us, we could be more intentional at creating environments where others can be confident to try, to do things where they are at risk of making errors. That way we can be agents of growth and change in others … and in ourselves.

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