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Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
My students reveal their brilliance to me through what they call mistakes. They tell me which part of a student’s mind-body system has mastered a skill and which part is still learning it. As a teacher, I need my students’ mistakes in order to do my job well.
Learning naturally, in a way that is brain-friendly, should be like any other spontaneous human activity we do: There is a time to begin, a time to end, and a time to change pace or switch gears.
No matter what my capacity for empathy may be, I am still a separate person from my students … I don’t get to feel what it is like to think their thoughts or be them.
This is why I need mistakes, cues that a student has gotten their maximum benefit for the time being, and that is time to switch gears.
Mistakes point out to me the gaps in learning that it is my job as a teacher to fill.
The mind-body system needs to repeat a skill thousands of times in order to master it. A common misconception is that if someone has learned how to do something in one situation, they should be able to apply this skill in all other settings or contexts.
Because people have different learning styles, they may take to something presented in one way, but it might take time for them to master it in other situations.
A mistake could tell me to present a concept in a different way, to work with a different part of my student’s personality, or to guide the lesson to a different task–to take a brain break.
When a student makes a mistake in a session, I celebrate their courage to take a risk doing something that is not yet easy for them and knowing they might make a mistake. I do my best to model positivity and strong esteem for my students. We look at their mistakes as valuable information, rather than as matters of guilt or shame.