#24 Of mistakes and failures

“You have to let the children figure things out. They will struggle and they will make mistakes but they will eventually figure it out.” – Dr Y

This comment really struck close to my heart. Back in school, prior to conducting every lesson, I think about how I am going to say things, what misconceptions can possibly arise from my lesson and how I can prevent the misconceptions from taking place. Yes, the students are able to do (most of) their homework and yes, they did not walk away from the class with any serious misconceptions. But is that a good lesson? Why am I so fixated on handing the concepts and the procedures to the students on a silver plate? Why am I so afraid of them making mistakes?

Recently, I have come to realize that teaching and learning does not just take place in a sanitized and quiet classroom where students passively receive information from their teachers. Learning can be messy, a bit noisy but learning needs to be an active process. When children assimilate and accommodate new information, sometimes they will make conceptual errors. I should not be afraid of the errors, rather I should try to know what they are thinking and correct their errors.

When I think about my life, I realize that my personal failures are actually the moments that define who I am. The trophies and the celebrations are good to have but they don’t shape my character too much. If we are always handing things to the students on silver plates, are we potentially depriving them of important learning experiences? When we say that the young people these days are not as resilient as the ones who came before, should we also blame ourselves for not allowing them to experience some failures/ mistakes in life? How often do we tell the young ones whom we are guiding that “failing is normal, failing does not mean the end of the world and failing does not mean that you are lousy?” Don’t downplay their failures because to these young minds, these failures are probably the biggest failures that they have faced in their lives so far. Allow them to experience failures, acknowledge their feelings, advise them on ways to move forward and help them pick themselves up again.

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