I would like to share an experience from today that highlights the importance of using mistakes as the stepping stones for student success...
I had just finished administering a STAR reading test to a bubbly and excited second grader. When he had finished, it was evident that he was mentally exhausted and needed to move around a bit. So, we decided that it would be a perfect time for a brain break. When I asked what we should do, his eyes went straight to the game “Mousetrap.”
For those of you who don’t remember or know this game, it is one that requires you to build a contraption that carries a marble through the course to the mouse at the end. Well, this particular student began to build, but it was obvious that his structure did not match the picture in the directions. As an adult, my first thought was that it would not work. He was making too many mistakes in building the course and the marble would not make it to the end. I watched with apprehension as he continued to build, contemplating if I should step in to help or not. When I attempted to show him how 2 pieces should fit together, he gently brushed my hand away and insisted he do it himself. So I let him be. After about 3 more minutes he was ready to test his marble. It did not work.
But then something incredible happened! Rather than walking away or giving up, the student began to talk about why it didn't work. I asked him questions to guide his thinking about how he might capitalize on these mistakes to make the course better. He feverishly began to re-build and after about 5 more minutes had created an amazing structure that appeared to be capable of moving the marble all the way to the end. He tried, and the marble made it! This young man was so proud and the last words out of his mouth were, “It made it to the end, and I did it all by myself!”
The most important part of this story is that this student would not have felt such success had I simply shown him how to put the course together. Yes, the marble would have made it to the end and he probably could build it that way next time, but he would not have felt ownership for the accomplishment. While we constantly want to encourage and help our children and students to be successful, we must remember the power of allowing them to learn from their mistakes in order to feel true successful.