How Have You Failed Today?

For the past a few days, I have been doing quite a lot of reading on mistakes. I mean I have come across really well-written motivational posts suggesting that mistakes are not to be afraid of, and there is always something to learn from even the most unfortunate incidents.

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The message from all that reading is so encouraging that I, once a pessimist, can never ever consider mistakes as the end of anything again. Above all, to err is totally human, and it is possible to have a change of perspective as long as optimism is sustained.

However, I have seen today that it is easier said than done. As those of you who have been following my blog may remember, I am one of the nine heads of learning units at Anadolu University School of Foreign Languages, and this distinguished position requires me, among other things, to prepare pop quizzes for the students who study at the level I am responsible for. Although I have been really careful doing that serious task for about a year, I have failed for the first, and hopefully the last, time with the first quiz of the new module.

I still cannot believe how it has happened, but I have somehow forgotten the answers on the quiz sheet given out to all 210 students! I know how terrible that sounds, and no word is enough to describe the extent of panic and disappointment that engulfed me when I, at last, noticed the mistake when one of the students asked me if there might be something wrong with part B.

Fortunately, it was only one part of the quiz with the right answers still next to the sentences to fill in with the appropriate vocabulary listed. That’s why I did not stop the students, and I let them finish the other parts. When they wanted to know what would happen next, I could only say “We’ll either cancel the quiz or part B”. Honestly speaking, I had no idea of the action to take at the time of answering the question.

Now my mind is clear, and I know that cancelling part B is the wiser choice because that would be unjust to ignore the students who have answered the remaining questions all correctly. I must also point out that I was not alone while making this decision, and I naturally consulted with my superiors who reacted to the incident more calmly than I did. Best of all, they listened to me really attentively and let me make the final decision, which assured me once more of the fact that leaders do not judge but allow a chance for those they lead to act autonomously and take responsibility for their own actions.

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At this very point, I realize that mistakes may come easy no matter how hard one may try to avoid them. This view makes it possible for me to approach to students more emphatically when they are wrong. It would be unquestionably unfair to deny to them the liberty to make mistakes while I, as an experienced teacher, can do that.

In essence, what should really matter when failure occurs is to admit the mistake, learn from it and never to repeat it.


One response to “How Have You Failed Today?

  1. A good classroom is the one where mistakes are allowed and cherished. We cannot learn without them. Learning is a process, not a product, and for processing we need both mistakes and successes.
    Also, I try to remind the teachers I mentor and train how it is more beneficial to talk about areas of growth than weaknesses while discussing students’ success. Learning process invites us to grow. How did your mistake help you grow as a learner?

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