February 11, 2019

Dear Campus School Families,

A child’s life from kindergarten through sixth grade is filled with mistakes. These are an inevitable – and valuable – part of human development. What’s critical is the stance adults take toward this reality. If schools and parents frame mistakes as something to be avoided, things to shy away from, then students will tend to play it safe; they won’t take the intellectual or emotional risks that are necessary to growth and development. Occasionally children even believe they are bad if they make mistakes, which is an especially pernicious outcome.

I had teachers who emphasized that mistakes were problematic. Often they believed in the “one right answer” approach to teaching, a limited and limiting understanding of the complexity of learning. The feeling in these classrooms was one of fear and anxiety. We became tentative in our learning, and self-confidence slowly and inevitably declined. Those teachers who viewed mistakes as a normal and necessary part of learning had entirely different classroom cultures. Students were relaxed and confident, unafraid to engage in the often messy work of learning and personal development.

Simply put, children who learn that mistakes are natural and normal will be primed to learn from their mistakes, and this is a very good understanding to develop in the elementary years, which is where children can safely fail, take stock of their experiences with the help of caring and wise adults, and develop into more confident and capable people.