Mistakes teach. Some students learn quickly from them, while others, well, not so much. In either case, learning is an individual process of making a mistake, recognizing it, and remembering not to repeat the same one. As tutors, our job is to encourage students to forge ahead in spite of a mistake, knowing that learning and success live just around the corner.
More often than not, students equate a mistake with failure. And why wouldn’t they? In the classroom, a mistake means a lower grade, and grades indicate a student’s proximity to success. But what if mistakes—rather than grades—were considered the stepping-stones toward success?
As a writing tutor, I have the luxury of not assigning grades. My focus is helping students become better writers, not merely getting better grades. Let’s say, for example, one of my students is writing an essay for English class. I read the essay, point out mistakes and make comments, and return the essay to the student for rewriting. This back-and-forth process continues until we both agree that the paper is a success! Thus, students are not demoralized by their mistakes, but rather are motivated toward success as they correct mistakes.
Moreover, if students begin to think of mistakes as tools to enable rather than demoralize, then they will be more inclined to share their mistakes. Students do not necessarily need to make a mistake in order to learn from it. They can learn from each other’s mistakes if the stigma of making a mistake is removed.
In conclusion, mistakes are unavoidable in school as in life. What is avoidable, however, is the perspective that mistakes are linked to failure. To the contrary, they lead to success. Make a mistake. Learn from it. Share what is learned. Spread success.
Diane Calmenson is a writing tutor in Dallas, TX, helping students succeed on their college application essays. She is also the co-founder of www.ConfideInU.com, an online community where college students and grads can anonymously share their experiences and learn from those that others confide.
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