Celebrating Mistakes As Part Of The Learning Philosophy

Many of the young people who are referred to me have delayed emotional development and usually low self-esteem. These two factors interfere hugely with how a child or young person views mistakes.

As many of you will be aware, acknowledging and recognising mistakes can be difficult. However the impact of those mistakes on our well-being can be affected by many variables i.e. how we are feeling about ourselves, the ratio of successes to mistakes, how we informed/found out about the mistake. So even with a sound level of self-esteem and self-confidence mistakes can cause us to wobble emotionally.

However a period of self-reflection most often motivates us to learn from the experience and hopefully not make that same mistake again in the future. This process supports resilience.

With this in mind we now need to draw out attention to children who are not at the same level. Mistakes mean only one thing and that means failure. Not failure in the task or behaviour choice, it represents failure in them as a person. They are the mistake, they are a failure. This perception creates a negative spiral that does further damage to self-esteem, self-confidence and longer term resilience.

Now for the psychology bit! Learning and understanding that mistakes are an essential element of learning is a crucial component of the emotional development stage “Skills and Structure” which is formulating between the ages of 6 & 12 years. For children and young people to move through these crucial years and also to embrace the following stage of Integration (12-18 years) then mistakes need to be a natural part of the learning process that fosters development and not a learning

As teachers and active adults in the students of HGCSC lives we need to be celebrating mistakes as they confirm that young people are learning. All learning works on theory that learning builds. The Zone of Proximal Development supports this concept. Children and young people learn, with in a margin based on what they already know. This opens up a whole new realm of understanding and potential mistakes.

Please can you share this understanding with your classes and at the start of lessons celebrate the mistakes that you are all going to experience together, because that means they are learning. A maths teacher who provided a class with simple addition calculations and everyone got them correct has not actually taught the class anything!
Please embed a celebrating mistake philosophy into your teaching in order to support HGCSC students to achieve academically and emotionally.

Little actions that can help in a big way!

  • Share your mistakes – be the mistake champion in your classroom (well
    you are the oldest!)
  • Acknowledge mistakes as a positive and reiterate that it mean that they
    are learning
  • Welcome questions as that shows that students are engaged and
    questioning highlights learning
  • Incorporate mistakes into AFL, “Who has made a mistake today?” and
    celebrate them

Next time: Do you pass the test that young people set?