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? 

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Baling The Side Ditches

My family and I are on vacation this week in the Black Hills of South Dakota. As you can imagine I have been reading up on the Lolitas, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, General Custer, the US involvement with Native Americans, and of course, Mount Rushmore. Despite all this learning, there was another lesson staring us in the face as we travelled completely across (literally) the awesome state of South Dakota: almost every mile of Interstate 90 of side ditch (what we call the roadsides in Indiana) were either baled, being baled, or being mowed for hay. 

We were amazed by the quantity of grass hay being baled on these roadsides. For one stretch, my son Heath, counted 150 big 6’X6′ round bales on the north side (west bound) lanes of the interstate and got tired of counting. Heath really got me thinking when he said, “Dad, this is genius, why don’t we do this?” He went on to say, “Look at all the good hay they are getting and the state does not have to pay to mow roadsides.” I was pretty proud of his thinking – particularly cutting government costs!

Then I got to thinking that we need to find the roadsides to mow in all our organizations. What might be going to waste somewhere that our own business, organization, or school could be using? I am sure if we spent a little time brainstorming we could come up with some pretty amazing stuff. 

In my own case of leading a school, I talk a lot about existing infrastructure. In other words, what are others doing that the school could partner with and not have to use State dollars to provide? I think about this a lot around social services. To me it does not make sense for schools to spend a lot of money on services that are being provided in every county; and done very well, I might add. I continue to say we need to develop a “constellation of services” so we are not all trying to do the same thing.

Really, we need to be thinking like a farm kid. As a young boy I would go to the local elevators and other farms and clean up their grain screenings (broken corn kernels and chaff that is screened as corn goes up the elevator). Left in piles it would just get wet and gross as it rained in the fall. These screenings were dusty to pick up and no one really liked the job. For me, it was an opportunity. I could spend the fall feeding out some pigs on all the grain screenings I collected. In fact, it got to where people would call and tell me the pile was getting big. Also, I was always very busy collecting the screenings when the weather report was calling for rain. 

So, just as the farmers in South Dakota, and I’m sure other states, apply for permits to bale roadsides, we need to consider what our opportunities for baking side ditches are. I’m sure they are out there if we just take the time to look. 

Dad & Lad Time

Posted in Agriculture, Agriculture Science, Coaching, Inspirational, National Farm Machinery Show, Spiritual by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 19, 2017

I really believe that the kind of man a young boy becomes, is dependent on what his father taught him during moments spent together. Keep in mind here, my post is only about the father/son relationship and time spent together. Time spent bonding with our children teaches him positive principles, instills honest values and virtues, and presents countless life lessons, or learned knowledge, along the way.

To do this, we must simply help our sons cultivate their own interests and encourage their wandering spirit. My son, Heath, and I had just such an outing yesterday. We attended the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s the largest of its kind. 850 exhibitors covered 1.2 million square feet of floor space in the Kentucky Exposition Center as the National Farm Machinery show continues to be the largest indoor farm show in America. 

For 52 years, the National Farm Machinery Show has offered the most complete selection of cutting-edge agricultural products, equipment and services available in the farming industry. I have been to the show for most of those 52 years of shows because my dad went to them all and always took me. Business professionals from around the world gain knowledge and hands-on access to various technological advancements needed for the upcoming farming season during the four-day show.

Robotic Feed Bunk Pusher

We spent time looking at the newest precision equipment and discussed how that was responsible and important for being good stewards of our planet. We were amazed at the milking robots and barn cleaning robots. Heath wants one, by the way, but it ain’t happening because we are still teaching work ethic on our farm, too. We literally went through all 850 exhibits and it seems, had a conversation about each. I love the international aspect of the show. It gives Heath and I the opportunity to interact with agriculturalists from around the world. The ripples of this coming together will bring about positive social change in agriculture.

Above all, this father-son activity works well as a platform for instilling values and teaching lessons with my son. Sometimes, the message is subtle, but that’s often how a lasting impression is made.

What lasting impressions are you making?