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Mistakes Are Okay

Learning is a continuous process in life, and making mistakes is an important part of the learning process. When we learn new things, we tend to make mistakes, which is natural and common. The problem is not in making mistakes but in how we look at our mistakes and how we feel about them. As toddlers when we started learning to walk, we fell over and got up and tried again. Finally we learnt to walk without falling. If we had seen our falling over as a mistake, and felt regret about it, perhaps we wouldn’t have learnt walking. It was essential that we fall over and learn from that. Unfortunately, the adults around us installed so much fear about making mistakes that now we are terribly scared about mistakes all the time. Nobody told us that it’s okay to make mistakes, that we don’t need to feel guilty about and blame ourselves for them.As the eldest child in my family, I was not allowed to make mistakes. In school the expectation from the teachers was that others could make mistakes but not me. I still remember one of my teachers telling me, “I will excuse others for their mistakes, but I can’t excuse you for the same mistakes.” I used to be conscious all the time about mistakes. Thankfully I got into RC, and now I know that I, too, can make mistakes—like any other human does. Though I feel scared about my small mistakes, I have learnt to tell myself, “It’s okay, Shashi. You have the right to make mistakes.” I discharge and arrive at a place of appreciating myself for making the mistake and for facing it.As a teacher I get to witness every day the effects of misinformation about mistakes. I notice that when students are writing their class work, homework, and examinations, they often don’t strike the words that are mistakes but instead scratch them. Sometimes they tear the whole sheet of paper. I kept on instructing them not to scratch and make their writings look untidy. Then I realized that they scratched because they wanted to hide their mistakes. Probably as teachers we have failed to let our students know that mistakes happen and that it’s okay. Now I have started telling my students that it’s okay to make mistakes but that it’s not okay to hide them. I instruct them to strike the word when they get it wrong instead of scratching. They deserve an appreciation for realizing their mistake, not blame for making it.All humans make mistakes, so we need to accept our children with their mistakes. This doesn’t mean ignoring any mistakes. It means teaching our children to take responsibility for their mistakes, and standing by our children. I am sure that if we stand by them, they will dare to show their mistakes more openly. They will start analyzing them and correct them themselves. As teachers, it’s our responsibility to train our students not to run away from their mistakes. Instead we need to understand our students and train them to own their mistakes and learn from them.As a teacher, I declare to my students that it’s okay to make mistakes, that they have the right to make them. I vow to my students that I will trust them and stand by them with their mistakes, that I won’t let them down or let them be isolated because of their mistakes. I would love to be their ally forever.Let us handle our mistakes not in isolation but in cooperation and understanding. I would love to learn not only from my mistakes but also from yours. Teachers are always learners, and I take pride in learning from my students.

S.J. Shashikala

Bangalore, India

(Present Time 171, April 2013)

Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00