What a glorious mistake!
That is most certainly not something I say or even feel I want to say very often. Yet yesterday I wanted to shout it!
Sandy Millin once called me “The Eternal Teacher”. She may have referred to the fact that except for a stint in a “baby shop”, teaching is the only thing I have been doing since I was still in high school (which was a long time ago!). But perhaps it is a reference to the fact that I can’t seem to stop thinking about how my own experiences relate to class.
I can’t see how feeling this excited over a mistake can be replicated in class. My students know they can correct homework assignments and that they get extra points for correcting their exams. We use process writing for their literature tasks, and the students work on corrected versions.
All helpful but not exciting. Mistakes are still closely linked to grades and in high-school there is also the issue of students who are afraid to look bad in front of their peers. Not elements I am able to eliminate in my classroom.
Compare the classroom to the following situation:
* I’ve taken up photography purely for my own pleasure. I’m not studying it in a formal manner, I don’t have any tests or deadlines.
* Learning about controlling the settings on my camera doesn’t come easily for me. Aperture and shutter speed settings (not to mention other things!) are all related to numbers. I have a hard time with numbers in any situation, I tend to have difficulty remembering them and often get them confused. I’m good with theory until it gets down to numbers.
* Yesterday I had the pleasure of going out on a photo-walk with two good friends who know much more than I do about photography. I got totally muddled regarding which setting numbers work for what.
And it didn’t matter one bit.
I wasn’t worried about they would think of me (great people!) and I didn’t have any photos that needed to be handed in. Nobody was judging my work and I didn’t have to show photos to anyone if I didn’t want to. I had a great time simply experimenting, trying out different settings and discovering the results.
And I made some glorious mistakes! Mistakes as in the photos didn’t come out the way I thought they might be supposed to according to the settings I had chosen (note the use of the word “might”!) but the results are so fun! Here’s my favorite “mistake” (it wasn’t dark yet, to mention one thing):
Perhaps a science teacher could replicate my joyful experience in a lab, but I don’t see it happening in class. Nonetheless, studying photography has reminded me, once again, that its useless to give students information they aren’t ready for. My friends had lots more to tell me, but I don’t want to hear it till I get a handle on those setting numbers!