Tag Archives: Growth Mindset

Celebrate Those Mistakes, Darn it!

I made a mistake today at work. I hate making mistakes. It was one of those memorable mistakes that I’ll carry with me until it is fully resolved. I wish I could explain more, but this is not the right forum. In simple terms, I put too much trust in a child who could not handle it.

At my last job, I made a big mistake early on. I prepared a presentation for my boss to deliver to the heads of a major bank but left out 90 or so of the 100+ slides. It was an error in communication. I misunderstood. As I sat by his side in a San Francisco high-rise, I had my first “oh, shit” moment at work. Thankfully, he did not fire me and everyone laughed. I got off easy.

It’s funny. I’m working to reframe how students see mistakes in my classroom. Maybe I should take my own advice. Instead of being embarrassed, I invite students to celebrate their mistakes and explain what they learned from them. Everyone grows in listening to each other. Students that participate are put on our Shout-Out Board for the week, under the heading, “Our most awesome mistakes we learned from!” They love it.

We kicked off this shift with a presentation about growth vs. fixed mindsets, emphasizing that intelligence is not fixed but earned through hard work. Sure some people have to work harder to get to the same place, but everyone is capable– a very powerful message that ties back to the whole idea that we need to praise kids for hard work instead of intelligence, (<– one of my favorite articles on parenting/teaching of all time).

Chart credit Pinterest.

Credit Pinterest.

Some companies are taking a similar approach by celebrating employees’ mistakes at work. Apparently, some pretty darn intelligent people believe that celebrating mistakes fuels innovation, risk-taking, and minimizes the repetition of company-wide mistakes made in the future. For all my business-minded readers out there, I recommend clicking that link.

So, tonight, instead of beating myself up, I wrote this post to celebrate the fact that I am human, I take risks and I make mistakes. The more I think about it, the more I also see that many of the risks I take at school pay off. Without my creative approaches to behavior management, I would not survive my job. While it sucks that I failed this time, I will make better mistakes tomorrow. Mission accomplished, mistake celebrated.

"I will make better mistakes tomorrow." Credit Pinterest. Side note: I'm a big fan of this tattoo positioning, had been thinking about one on my wrist, but like this better I think... Different words, though.

“I will make better mistakes tomorrow.” Credit Pinterest. Side note: I’m a big fan of this tattoo placement… Just saying 😉

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You’re as smart as you work to be!

I love this!

I’m telling my students over and over this month that you’re not born smart, you work hard to become smarter: “Your brain is like a muscle.  The harder you work it out, the smarter you get!”

This has fascinating implications for praise.  If we tell our kids that they’re smart, they’re less likely to take risks, because they’re afraid they’ll look dumb if they make mistakes.  On the other hand, if we praise their hard work, they’re more likely to take risks, grow, succeed.  For anyone interested in this concept, New York Magazine has a great article from a few years back:  “How Not to Talk to Your Kids.”

Makes total sense to me.  It took me 26 years to decide to try something that I might be bad at, (and, it’s still painful when I don’t immediately succeed).  Granted, my parents did not just praise intelligence, they also praised hard work, but I’d be curious to know how much praise I’ve received in life based on intelligence alone.

Maybe effort-based praise does not solve everything, but it’s still a very motivating concept for kids.  Anyone can be the “smart one” if he/she works at it!  I guess it’s a good reminder for us adults too…

Time to do some brain push-ups!

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