Alexander Pope wrote, “To err is human . . . ” Making mistakes is inherently human, so people can take the opportunity to grow and learn from their errors. In her book, Being Wrong, Kathryn Schulz explains. “Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition. Far from being a moral flaw. it is inextricable from some of our most human and honorable qualities: empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction, and courage . . . wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change.”
When people share their mistakes, they can adjust their behavior and learn. In an Edutopia article, Dr. Richard Curwin addresses the positive aspect of educators sharing mistakes: “When a teacher forms strong relationships with another teacher or two, they share their problems freely, ask for and give advice, and learn from each other. . . . An important side effect of discussing mistakes might be to change the perception of mistakes, not only for teachers, but for students as well. When teachers learn from their mistakes, they might be more willing to let students learn from theirs.”
Teachers can promote a positive learning environment by demonstrating that mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. Admitting mistakes provides the opportunity to practice an open mind-set. In order to engender positive thinking, teachers can embrace the chances for “teachable moments” in a variety of ways. First of all, they can share their own mistakes, thus demonstrating that the classroom is a safe environment for learning. They can explain what mistakes students made and allow them to correct and re-do their work. They can also avoid negative language like, “No, you’re wrong,” in favor of questioning why a student responded with an error. How and why questions lead to more critical thinking. After all, isn’t that the goal of learning?