Byron's Babbles

I Have Paid For An Education With My Mistakes

This past week was one of my favorite weeks of the year. I spent the week at the Boone County Fair (Lebanon, Indiana) showing Jersey dairy cows with my son. This is incredible dad and lad time. The county fair is the time of year when I get to see friends and visit with former students. It is great to catch up. One visit I look forward to every year is with Andy Clark, a Lebanon graduate I had in many classes and one of my favorites and great ones. This year, like clock work, Andy showed up with his wife and kids and we sat at our dairy stalls and talked for a couple of hours. I blogged about last year’s visit in “Matching School Work To Real Work.” Click here to read that post. 

During our conversation this year I was struck by his comment of “I Have Paid For An Education With My Mistakes.” This is the true mindset of a lifelong learner and someone who has a growth mindset. Andy supplies chopped hay and straw to Fair Oaks Dairy in northern Indiana as part of his farming operation. We talked a lot about how he learns, researches, experiments, and iterates to make his operation successful, efficient, and profitable. I could not be prouder of what Andy has accomplished and the great leader he has become.

Andy really gets what it means to be continually learning and to work toward continual improvement. He is an example of what we must be making sure we prepare our students to be ready for. As we work in Indiana to create worthwhile graduation pathways we must make sure we are providing the correct avenues for students, like Andy, who are going straight into he workforce with careers. Research shows that students are nervous about making any mistakes — but with a little encouragement by teachers, they begin to take risks, and growth by leaps and bounds. On the other hand, other students who were so anxious about making mistakes they would not take any risks at all, and the research showed their anxiety slowed the process of their learning.

Mistakes play a powerful role in learning, as well as the huge influence that the teacher’s attitude and feedback play on a child’s perspective on mistakes. We need to help students become comfortable with mistakes and help them learn how to grow from them. This is difficult to do for some because despite the fact that making mistakes seems to be a part of who we are, mistakes are still not readily accepted. We act like they didn’t happen. We blame someone else. We feel embarrassed. But this isn’t how mistakes should be viewed — especially in schools. I would assert that Andy should be an example for adults, too.

I would argue whether you are a grown adult or are a school age child and you don’t make any mistakes, then you aren’t really learning anything new. School, especially, is the one place that’s all about learning. It’s the one place where mistakes should be not only accepted, but expected.

Why should mistakes be an expected part of learning? If students, who then become our workforce, entrepreneurs, and future leaders, don’t learn early on how to handle them on their own, if they are regularly rescued by well-meaning teachers and parents, then they won’t develop the skills needed to tackle difficult things or bounce back from setbacks. Skills like perseverance and gumption. 

Despite the rhetoric around mistakes being necessary for learning, I believe it is rare that you truly see mistakes embraced and celebrated as learning opportunities. We must learn from individuals like Andy that learning from mistakes is an important part of being successful. In most schools, “success” is defined as getting high marks on tests, with results (and minimal or no mistakes) mattering more than the process of learning or the process of getting to the answer. And when the results aren’t good? Students feel embarrassed or shamed. We need to change this. 

We must create environments in our schools, businesses, and organizations where everyone see mistakes not as impenetrable roadblocks, but rather as a natural part of the learning process. Have you received an education from your mistakes? 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: