M is for Mistake

| March 16, 2014
1. In school, we are typically taught to rectify our mistakes, lessen them. Fewer and fewer mistakes will get you higher grades on a math test. Making more mistakes lowers your score. The negativity attached to mistakes is obvious.
2. What should we be teaching students about mistakes? Elementary school teaches us mistakes are bad, they are wrong. The schooling sets up a binary system of good/bad and right/wrong. Mistakes fall on the side of the bad, the wrong side. Much of our schooling revolves around reinforcing this categorical associations with mistakes and failure.
3. On a report card when I was in elementary school, my teacher praised me by saying something along the lines of “Makes few mistakes.” I took it as a compliment, as it was obviously intended. Now I’m not so sure.
4. The creative process lives in the realm of mistakes. Even when we are faced with a finished artwork that seems devoid of mistakes, the process itself most likely lived on the ‘mistake’ side of the tracks. Residing in the world of mistakes allows artworks to thrive.
5. Mistakes are a sign of experimentation. Why do we teach students to be afraid of making mistakes? The prominence of standardized testing is obviously a major factor. The multiple choice test with right and wrong answers reminds us of the clarity of our failure. There is no experimentation in the mistakes found on a test.
6. The trick is not to remove mistakes, but to study them, understand them. Reaching an understanding of why we make mistakes allows us to figure out how necessary mistakes actually are.
7. ¬†Samuel Beckett: “My mistakes are my life.”