Wednesday, August 1, 2012

It's Okay to Admit You're Wrong!

You're standing in front of the room or in front of a small group, many eyes watching you in wonderment as you deliver life-changing instruction.  You're on your game!  You're knocking this lesson out of the park!  You are sooooo confident that the students are going to be talking about this lesson for years to come!  Heck, you may get an award for how stellar you are! 

You're teaching your students all about some amazingly interesting science concept, when all of a sudden, after one simple fact comes out of your mouth, Billy opens his mouth and says..."But, Mrs. A, I think you're wrong.  My book says the sun is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit, not 10 million degrees Fahrenheit."

The wind has been sucked out of you.  Did you just hear what you thought you heard?  Did a student seriously just tell you that you were....wrong?  You're the teacher!!  You're NEVER wrong!!  You want to get duct tape and put it over Billy's mouth, but you quickly decide that's not the best way to handle the situation.  You're immediate reaction is to tell Billy that you've been teaching for 20 years, clearly you know how hot the sun is; therefore, he better check his oh-so-wonderful resource!

But............what if Billy is right?  If he's right, then you've tainted the minds of all these young people with false information!  What to do?  What to do?

I'll tell you what I think you should do.  Suck it up and tell them you may possibly be wrong!  We are often telling children, "It's okay.  We all make mistakes.  You need to learn and grow from them!"  But, for some reason, it is often so difficult for teachers to admit they're wrong in front of their students.  I don't know if it's because teachers are supposed to be all-knowing.  How many times have you heard people, including other adults, tell you, "You should know that!  You're a teacher!"  I want to hit them!  Sure, I'm an elementary teacher, but I should know the answer to that college physics question!  What in the world?

Modeling for students is one of the absolute best ways to teach students social behaviors.  If we want our students to know it's okay to make mistakes, then we have to let them know we think it's okay for us to make mistakes as well!   This was kind of hard for me to start doing, as I felt that I shouldn't be allowed to make mistakes because I am the teacher...I'm supposed to know what I'm doing!

Well, you can ask any of my students...I've certainly moved beyond that!  I can't tell you the number of times my class and I have cracked up over something ridiculous I said or did...something that was completely wrong!  My students don't make a big deal out of me making mistakes because I don't make a big deal out of it!  We laugh and move on, which allows them to laugh and move on when they do the same thing.

I think there's a misunderstanding out there that students will lose respect for their teacher if they catch their teacher making a mistake; however, the respect is lost when the students can see their teacher trying to cover up the mistake and not take ownership of it.  Students will truly have more respect for you if you admit it, maybe even laugh about it, and move on!   We are all human!

Model for your students that making mistakes is part of life, and mistakes do not need to be considered a negative, awful thing.  Show them that it's okay to admit when you're wrong, learn from it, and move on!   Heck, I think it's a good day when I can go home and say I goofed up and even learned something new from a student!   

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