Mistakes That Teachers Make and Students Benefit From

“Mistakes lead to learning and growing. Mistakes challenge you to learn from them in order to succeed. Mistakes represent success in disguise.”

This, according to a recent article in Converge, is a powerful way to look at mistakes by both teachers and students.  In Clay, Duval, and St. Johns County the holiday school break is almost here.  As students are making their plans for their holiday days-off, teachers will be doing the same.

Five mistakes that teachers should make:

1. Let students fail
Empire High School government teacher Mr. Jeremy Gypton says that letting students fail by their own hand is — although technically a mistake — good for students. Throughout preparing to become a teacher, Mr. Gypton and others were told to help students through their struggles.

Essentially, teachers are being told to hold their students’ hands and give them stepping-stones to the answers of their education. However, letting students find their own path to answers in class is a key experience for them to become better students. If students can research and find out answers by themselves, then they will be able to excel in researching any topic, both in other classes and in life.

For example, Mrs. Dujmic and many teachers at Empire expect students to be creative with presentations because they have a laptop with various applications. Mrs. Dujmic said that when she asks her students to do their presentations, they are required to use two mediums of technology. The two mediums are not specified, so the students have the creative freedom to choose from a variety of tools such as PowerPoint, Keynote, iMovie, Presi, GarageBand, YouTube and projectors.

While PowerPoint is a popular tool to use for presentations in order to create a neat and informative presentation, using iMovie would give extra flare that could score the student more points. When a student using a tool that could flop for the specific type of presentation they need in relation to displaying information and creativity, they learn which mediums work best and which work the worst in certain situations.

2. Make bad lesson plans / make mistakes on content
Every student, and every class, is different. Lesson plans that work for some students do not work for all, and teaching methods that are perfect for one course may not be for another. Empire High School math teacher Mr. Billy Campbell states that when teachers go out of the norm to make a creative lesson plan, it might completely fall through with a class. That experience of trial and error in making lesson plans will help a teacher know what type of work is most beneficial for students in regards to work ethic and retaining information. Also, teachers should not be afraid to slip up once in a while in their words or writing because when students make mistakes, then they will engage during a lesson by creating a discussion about how to correct the mistake. Use technology that you are not totally familiar with.

There are some assignments that should not be given as much creative freedom as others. During my junior year history class, students were told to create a presentation about certain events in American history and then to teach the class using the presentation. The presentations made in that class varied from PowerPoint-type presentations to iMovies to speeches or skits. The least informative, on average, were the students who made iMovies. When it comes to iMovies, students like to be flashy with a lack of text. Audio is a nice addition to an iMovie that can really enhance the project, but some students see it as a way to showcase their favorite bands in an irrelevant manner. Then students are required to take notes on the presentations and use them as information on events that would be on future tests/quizzes. So for the benefit of the entire class, it would have helped to limit the creative aspect to a more structured project that would be as informative and relevant as possible.

3. Waste time
Waste time to see who your students are and what they know.  Teachers may feel pressure to spend every single moment on content, but getting to know your students and their knowledge can actually save you time in the long run. A teacher at the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, Terry Wimmer, keeps flashcards of his students. He makes the flashcards on the first day of school and has students tell him their basic information as well as an interesting thing about them, which helps him know something about them.

Attached to each student’s card is a picture of that student. That way Mr. Wimmer can come to his classes during the second week of school and know who his students are. His method of getting to know his students is beneficial for multiple reasons. Mr. Wimmer’s students will not be able to hide behind anonymity, and he will be able to call them out. Also, students feel more comfortable in a class when their teacher knows who they are.

Before making lesson plans that integrate technology use, it would help to learn where students are in regards to that technology. A helpful part in the process of a teacher learning about their students is getting to know where they are with tools that will be used in class. If teachers find out which students are experts with programs and which students have never touched them, they can make future lessons plans around that. They will know when to have mini introductory lessons for programs, when to assign students to help others, and when no introductions are necessary.

4. Ignore your reputation
Many teachers want to earn the vote of best teacher, but sometimes not being the most favorable teacher can help your students. Even though giving the hardest tests at a school may not be seen as the coolest thing to students, it will give the students more incentive to learn. For instance, in my Senior Composition class, the tests on books that we read are largely on minute details — things such as which word two characters used to describe an object. Although this test makes students have to read every word of the book to ensure a passing grade, it is what makes the book a better learning tool for students. And just because students like multiple choice or true and false more doesn’t mean that those types of questions have to be on a test. Discussion questions often invoke stronger thought.

Students often hate it when teachers start the year off by grading as strictly as possible. Many teachers find it easier when they start off with easy assignments and lenient grading and then gradually get harder, but some of the teachers at Empire — especially English teachers — have the same expectations from the first day to the last. Starting off strict — and continuing to be — gives less wiggle room for the students that like to take advantage of a teacher’s lenience. All teachers know that those are the students that interrupt class and make it annoying for everyone to have to sit through lectures on how to not act like a five-year-old. So even though being strict might not make a teacher the most popular, it can make a class run a whole lot smoother and at a better pace.

5. Set standards too high
It is a good thing for teachers not to have low standards so that they have room to push students and make their students become better educated and driven. However, not every student has the same levels of talent and know-how. While one standard is achievable for one student, it may be impossible for another. The same goes for standards for the entire class. John de Dios says that while one group of students may blow a teacher’s standards out of the water, another group might struggle to get to the OK point. This means that teachers should have a moderately high standard that is achievable by the average student, but is still high enough to challenge students and push them to a better education.

In regards to technology, students are also at different levels of experience and know-how due to their backgrounds. There are many students at Empire who are very experienced with computers and can write coding for websites with ease. However, there are other students who struggle with applications, even when using toolbars and buttons. In certain classes when tools are first integrated into a class, such as Photoshop into photography class, a teacher has no idea how well students can use the program.

Read the entire article here.

Did you miss the Five Mistakes Students Should Make, click here.

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