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Teaching children the power of mistakes

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

“Our brains renew themselves throughout life to an extent previously thought not possible.” ― Michael S. Gazzaniga

My 6 year old son was working really hard on a math assignment the other day. He was so proud. You could see the satisfaction on his face. He handed me the completed assignment and asked that I check his work. I pointed out where he had made a miscalculation. He erased it and fixed it. Then he turned to me smiling saying, “Mama I made a mistake. That’s good because my brain grew stronger.” My jaw dropped, my eyes glistened. My son understood the power of trying. He understood that as humans we make mistakes and that is okay. Growth mindset has given my son a love of learning!

My son’s first year of K-12 schooling he struggled academically and with social-emotional skills. My husband and I made the decision to retain him a year. I know that this is not a highly effective strategy but we felt we were out of options. At the end of his second year of kindergarten he was a completely different student. What I believe made the difference this last academic year was his teacher. Not only did my son grow academically, finishing his year above standard, but he also gained growth in his social and emotional skills.

What was this secret and magical teaching method that allowed him to make more than a year growth, when the previous year there was little movement? His teacher believed in him as a learner. She championed him along the way. Even though I know my son can be challenging, she never conveyed that AND she never let him know that. When he made poor choices we were informed. However, these conversations were always framed from the standpoint of, “Tomorrow’s a new day, he can do better, and I believe in him.”

His teacher instilled in my son that mistakes are a sign of learning, that mistakes make our brain stronger. She gave my son a love of learning!



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