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No Mistakes Nothing Makes

April 17, 2010

Out of the teaching arena for some time, I stepped back in as a favour to a friend. My classes went fairly well and I grew overconfident and cocky. After a while I was allotted a freshman’s class and I fell flat on my face.


No mistakes nothing makes
Your mistakes are blessings in disguise. Build on them… and learn.

Of course I blamed the class at first. I wrote off the students as being lazy, non-receptive, even hostile. I talked it over with my inner circle, the school’s coordinator and in the end the students. When all that didn’t help, I reluctantly took a good look at myself and my teaching techniques.

Then it hit me: all the students were asking me to do, was to get off my high horse; break it down simple and give them a customised framework they could work with. So I did. It took me some time to do damage control and win the class back over, but eventually — I can gladly say — I succeeded. Crisis averted.

Mistakes and creativity

Generally speaking, we perceive mistakes as a bad thing. So, we’re not likely to credit it. We teach this in our schools and issue this in our workplace. Paraphrasing Russell Ackoff: “You never learn from doing something right. Learning only occurs when you identify your mistakes and correct them.”

With his own particular British humour, Sir Ken Robinson adds on another dimension. In his twenty minutes TED talk, Robinson teaches us that daring to make mistakes means opening up yourself to creativity. It also means unleashing your child-like dare-devil and going with the flow. […]


Sir Ken Robinson: “I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Robinson goes on to state that adults have become frightened of being wrong.

Alike Ackhoff, he believes our educational system and business world to be faulty in this. “We stigmatise mistakes…. And the result is, we’re educating people out of their creative capacities.” By blotting mistakes we undervalue, ignore and squander high talents and brilliant creativity. The ironic hypocrisy is that while on one side, we yell for lifelong learning at the top of our lungs; on the other, we ‘niptuck’ learning right in the bud.

Don’t suppress learning

Today I’m very grateful to that freshman’s class of way back when. Among others, they taught me two very important things:

#1. Learner-centred.
I learnt that if you want to engage students, it’s best to construct courses that are Learner-centred as opposed to Teacher-centred. As opposed to Self-centred. This implies e.g. a short evaluation of students’ foreknowledge at the start of each course.

#2. Trail-and-Error.
I also learnt that teaching is a Trail-and-Error. Not a One-fits-All. You’ve got your experience, your common sense and a bag of learning methods. Be creative. Use them. Wisely. This learning-experience ultimately made my life as an educator, an improved and pleasant one. And all it took, was me admitting my mistake (to myself); learning from it and putting my lessons learned into practice.

So, the next time you’re considering sweeping your mistakes under the carpet, or worse yet, shifting the responsibility on to somebody else; just stop right there. Let the creative child in you rise up. Be bold. And do not deny yourself the opportunity to learn.

(Source image used: Sayamindu)

Related posts to read:

Connected (Part 2)
Connected (Part 3)
Learners teach thyself
Think big: think impact

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