“I like making mistakes.”
These are the words that came out of my 11 year old’s mouth as we were walking home from his voice lessons on Sunday.
If we were in a movie, this would be the moment the sappy music started to play. The plot turning a-ha moment.
A few months ago my son would have never said this.
He’s always liked to follow rules. He’s never wanted to let on that he doesn’t understand something. He’s been know to erase his math work if he sees he is going in the wrong direction. He’s never wanted to admit he doesn’t know the correct path to an answer. Normally, he doesn’t like to ask questions. At school he wants to please. We have never told him we care about grades. We have said quite the opposite to him. He puts pressure on himself though.
So, what changed over the last few months?
My son started middle school this year. He came home the first day of school and told me about one of his classes.
“We can retake tests, mom. As many times as we need to until we get it right. And my teacher likes mistakes.It’s ok if we make mistakes. Mistakes show we are learning.”
In the craziness of the first day of school, we didn’t spend much time on the conversation. When Open House rolled around, I almost didn’t go. I work at the school. I run into his teachers every day. I know the policies and procedures. I work on the curriculum. I figured there wasn’t much new to learn by attending Open House. But, my little dude said I had to go and so I did.
When I heard the same ideas my son heard on the first day during Open House it reminded me to make it a point of discussion at home. On the ride home I brought it up.
“Your teacher told me you can retake tests until you learn something. He said its more important to him that you learn a concept even if it takes you a while. Isn’t that cool? He said he likes seeing mistakes.”
Over the next 20 minutes we talked about how making mistakes makes us smarter. We talked about the lessons we can learn. We talked about how showing mistakes will help my son’s teacher figure out how to help him learn. We talked about how it was ok to admit we didn’t know something. I told my son I hoped he took advantage of this year to make mistakes in the safe space of that classroom.
I didn’t know our conversation stuck. He’s eleven. It was late in the evening and we were both exhausted.
After voice lessons the other day I asked my son what he liked about going to voice. That’s when he gave me the “I like making mistakes” answer.
“I like when I don’t do something right and then I figure it out. Remember, like Mr. ___. He likes mistakes.”
He said it with such confidence.
My little man’s a-ha moment is huge. I know what’s waiting for him as an adult. I know he is going to have days when he needs to admit mistakes. I want him to feel success in working through his mistakes. I want him to see a mistake as the first part in the learning process. I want him to have a chance to rework, revise, and rehearse before he has to show mastery. I want a grade to be a form of feedback and not a punishment or a gotcha. I want him to problem-solve to work through his mistakes. To do all of this he has to be comfortable in making mistakes to begin with.