On Monday, my first grader came home from school and announced, “Mistakes are for learning.” Throughout the rest of the day, she repeated the mantra in various contexts–including sharing it with a restaurant manager helping us out when we found wax paper in a burger.
Pleased though I am that she seems to finally be grasping this essential element of the growth mindset, I can’t help but marvel at how long it took for this concept to sink in. After all, having studied Carol Dweck’s growth mindset, I’ve made it a point over the years to try to help her celebrate failures and recognize opportunities for growth.
But it wasn’t until a first grade teacher shared it in such simple terms as “Mistakes are for learning” that things clicked. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the timing. First grade is packed with pivotal moments for learning, failing, and growing. With a fresh school year, she’s still dazzled by every aspect: practicing spelling lists, listening to audiobooks, participating in a computer math program that advances users as they demonstrate mastery.
But I know that it won’t be long before the novelty will wear off. The tasks will become more challenging. The routine will become less enchanting. Mistakes will always be for learning, but that will not make them frustration-proof.
The key will be to help her maintain her understanding of the positive outcomes even amid the discomfort. To recall previous moments of victory as a result of repeated effort and failure. (Like when she recently wrote a book title, and when she asked me to read it, and I read aloud phonetically, “The Kumfee Kav,” she dashed off saying, “OH! I forgot ‘cave’s’ silent ‘e’ to make the ‘a’ say its own name! I can fix that!”). To remember that though progress may be slow, as Khan Academy’s video below emphasizes, “[She] can learn anything.” Most of all, to celebrate the journey along the way.
So to all the teachers currently in the classroom, thank you. Thank you for stepping in, shedding light, and reaching our kids in ways we parents can’t always do.
featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto
Come back next Wednesday for another “#TeacherMom” post. Read here for the rest of my weekly blogging topic schedule/background.