Mistakes…are you learning from them?

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“I’ve missed more than nine thousand shots in my career. I’ve lost almost three hundred games.  Twenty-six time I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

~Michael Jordan~

I often use Michael Jordan in many of my assemblies as he is an excellent example of ‘famous failures’, effort, perseverance and resilience.  He always talks about the mistakes he made and how they always propelled him to go that much further and do that much better.  Most of my life ‘Air Jordan’ has been an influence.  My number always had to be 23 when I played basketball and volleyball throughout high school.

So when I came across the above quote in Chapter 7 of John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, I knew I was onto a winner!  I never knew how much writing and reflection could come from one chapter.  There is so much valuable information and research packed into it, that I’m actually enjoying reading just a few pages and then taking time to think about what has been mentioned.

Hattie discusses how we as teachers can become complacent, either having a fixed mindset that we know best and not wanting to change practice, or thinking that we are doing things so well that we don’t want to look to continually improve.  Growth mindset underpins much of the philosophy he mentions.  Focusing on how a culture of confidence in making mistakes allows for greater progress, Hattie highlights that errors can contribute to the greatest learning.  We know this.  If we ponder this, it makes perfect sense.  So why do we still have classrooms where children are afraid to make mistakes and want to get things right, all of the time?  A major radical shift in culture is required as mistakes are what make us better, in everything that we do.  As I’m always touting to the kids, our greatest learning comes from our mistakes…as long as we learn from them and don’t keep repeating ‘silly’ mistakes.

The ethos always starts with the adults and staff in a school and as Hattie quite rightly identifies, “Failure or learning from errors is critical also in the staffroom.  A school needs to have a culture of no blame, a willingness to investigate what is not working (or what is not working with which students)” (p. 140, 2012). Teachers too must feel confident in trying new things in the classroom, researching what works best for their pupils at that time.  Therefore, if we can’t celebrate the learning from ‘mistakes’ that we might make in our own classrooms, then how can we ever learn what truly works?  So whether or not learning is successful, “with failure, we often ask ‘why?”;similarly, with success, we must ask ‘why?’.  Evaluation of processes, products, people and programs needs to be an inherent part of all schools. ” (p. 141, 2012).

And this is where the school development plan and self-evaluation would come in…

Always looking to reflect and improve…

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