At Last! An Authentic Conversation with Students about Making Mistakes

Sports Day! Naomi’s Photos

There aren’t many authentic opportunities for a teacher in the school system to truly model seeing mistakes as an opportunity for growth and improvement.

You know what I’m talking about.

We teachers are always being told that we should teach the students to try, fail, and learn from their mistakes.

To view mistakes as a learning opportunity.

Important, right?

A truly important message for my Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students learning English as a foreign language.

Yet we are expected to get this message across in a school system geared toward good grades and “getting it right”. A system in which the students trust me to know the material I am teaching them well.

So how do I show my students, at least occasionally, in an authentic way,  how I make mistakes, try to understand what went wrong, and try again? And again and again?


Failing doesn’t mean falling… (Naomi’s photos)

Fast forward to the day after our recent annual national sports tournament day, for schools with programs for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students from around the country.

We’re back at school.

One 10th grade student catches me coming down the stairs on the way to the classroom:

(No hello first…)

” Why didn’t you take a picture of me when I was ‘doing’ the penalty kick?!! The teacher of the other school took pictures of her students! I saw you with the camera by the football field!”

The second 10th-grade student said “Hello” and “Good Morning”. And then (more politely)  wanted to know why I only sent her one photograph of herself at the netball game,  (standing still!) when she clearly saw me taking lots of pictures of her during the first part of the game.

You need to learn to use the keys to unlock the right doors… Naomi’s Photos

Both students got the same candid reply:

“You know, I’m trying to learn artistic photography with a real camera (as opposed to a cell phone camera) and it was really hard for me to take pictures when you were moving so fast. Most of my photos were awful. You still have two more years at the high school. I hope you participate in lots of school events and I’ll keep trying. Maybe in the future, I’ll succeed in taking a good picture of you”.

Their reactions?

The “net-ball girl” – “Okay, I’ll be competing again. You keep practicing and try again. I got one picture, that’s a good start”.

The “soccer boy” – “Well, I’m not blaming you but if it’s hard you should practice. Maybe next year you’ll do better”.

Maybe I will take better photos of sports events and other school activities next year.

Maybe I won’t.

Either way, bringing my camera will work out well!

Additional notes:

  • I ALSO told the “soccer boy” that I got hit by a soccer ball kicked directly at my leg while standing by the field, which didn’t encourage me to stick around. He didn’t really find that detail relevant… A true photographer doesn’t let small discomforts get in his/her way, right?
  • One of the few “action photographs” I do have from the girls’ netball game is actually a funny one of a boy who barged in during the warmup time and caught the ball! You aren’t going to see it though – I don’t post pictures of my students anywhere online.