Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It’s Okay to Make Mistakes

When I first started teaching, I wanted the students to think I knew everything. I didn’t want to tell them I didn’t know or I was wrong about something. This was definitely the wrong thing to think. Students respect you more if you are willing to admit that you don’t know everything and will help them find the answers. I think this also helps their self concept because they don’t feel like they are stupid for not knowing everything. This is a good way for students to see that everyone is human and that no one can know everything there is to know. The most important thing is for them to learn how to search for the answers. I tell my students that this is the key to everything.

It is also alright to tell them that you were wrong about something. A long time ago I read somewhere (but I can’t remember where) that “An error is not a terror.” and I use this saying a lot in my classroom. My teachers used to tell me that is why they put erasers on pencils. The important thing to do is to correct your mistakes and learn from them. It doesn’t do any good to keep making the same mistakes over and over. That is why when I check student’s work I make them correct the errors before I will give them a grade on the work. This doesn’t change the grade but it does help them learn from their errors. At first this really annoys them because they think by correcting the work they should get a higher grade but I stand by my rule and eventually they see that I won’t back down and correct the work. I have student refuse to correct it and I refuse to give them a grade so I do not let them go on to any new work until the corrections have been made. When they see their classmates moving forward, they usually figure out that they better do what is necessary to move forward too. If that doesn’t work, I usually call home to explain my procedures and the reasons why I do this and that takes care of the problem. It doesn’t do any good to grade some work wrong, give it back to the student who glances at the grade and then shoves it in a book bag or in the trash without ever looking at it again. They will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. Hopefully this will increase the success they have in other lessons because the foundation of learning will be set.

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