Whoops! Wednesdays – Helping Students Develop a Different Take on Mistakes

I am a big proponent of helping students change their perspective on failure. Rather than thinking of failure as an end, I want students to think of it merely as information – informing them of what didn’t work and an inspiration to try other options. 

With that in mind, I carved out a small chunk of time from our Wednesday grade-level Enrichment block to devote to relooking at failure. I call it Whoops! Wednesdays

During Whoops! Wednesdays, I will share a moment where I made a pretty significant mistake. Then, I will talk about how I learned from it and then adjusted my plans as a result. I will talk about the feelings surrounding a large whoops, acknowledging that sometimes failure can have real and serious consequences. But, the focus is always on the next steps – how I changed my perspective and rebounded from failure.

This week I am sharing the story of how I messed up an activity with the students. I was asked to try out a new online test-taking product our school had purchased. The product creates a locked browser interface for the student, preventing them from being able to access unapproved websites or resources during a test situation. But, the activity I created for students to complete using this tool required them to go online and find a definition for a specialized term. Because of the test-taking product, however, students were unable to search online. Whoops!

Once I discovered this error, I went into my activity and changed the questions/expectations for the next block of students. So, when the next group worked on the activity, they no longer needed to go online to find the information. Fixed!

I will acknowledge the error and share how I felt embarrassed and foolish for making such a mistake. I put that first group of students through a stressful situation. But, I couldn’t focus on my failure. I had to focus on fixing it. I apologized and informed my students to ignore that particular question, and then revised the activity for my subsequent classes. And, I was reminded to always check activities for such concerns prior to assigning them. 

This event was not the end for me, but just another chance for me to grow. I want students to understand this different take on mistakes and internalize it so that they stop avoiding failure and change their relationship with it. 

If you are working on a similar idea in your class, I would LOVE to hear from you. Please feel free to reach out and let’s share some ideas.

Ed X!

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