Mistakes

Today’s blog is by Spencer A. Allen

So much of life is about mistakes. It was once a problem of enormous importance to never make a mistake, thereby never revealing the depth of my ignorance. I took to heart Lincoln’s warning: “Remain silent and be thought a fool or speak out and remove all doubt.”  In my mind, the the likelihood that revelation was more likely than not.

But the only way we learn is to make mistakes and repair them. Even when we receive training on some discipline, then actually doing them poorly is first required before we become accomplished.  School kids, like I was, often get the idea it is not safe to make mistakes.  I tell those I teach the reason they are in school is because it is a safe space to make mistakes and try not to react badly when they do.  Many instructors fail to support the idea of a safe mistake place by overreacting to minor spills, slow trips to the restroom, or failing to recharge computers.

We send our athletes to specialized training camps our dancers and cheerleaders to places where they can accel, but that is all about excellence.  How about the rest of us who need to learn from our mistakes to become competent – especially those whose parents can’t afford dance or training camp. 

Kids are loud. Adults sometimes find that annoying, kids get into scuffles, adults get very emotional about potential injury. But locking down the education process to the point of regimented 50-minute classes where students complete 10 or 20 multiple choice questions by reading several pages in a book.  They don’t get to stretch their imaginations or time to complete more complex or in-depth study.

Maybe high school should adopt the college model. Two-hour classes and one and a half hour classes on alternating days.  Let them find something that brings them joy – not be crammed full of facts in preparation for a test. That will keep statisticians busy appeasing state legislators with tests results that tell us nothing about learning.

Thanks for reading, Spence Allen (SAllen@woodyedmiston.blog)

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