Jon Harper admits that in more than a decade in education, he’s made plenty of mistakes. Some might call Harper a mistake guru. He interviews experienced education stakeholders about their mistakes on his popular Bam Radio podcast, My Bad.
In Episode 61 of the Hack Learning Podcast, Harper shares his journey to becoming a mistakes expert and provides steps for leveraging the power of mistakes, so we can become better teachers and learners.
Teachers fear mistakes: Most educators don’t want to look bad in front of students or colleagues, so they keep their mistakes hidden. Jon Harper says that owning his mistakes has taught him many valuable lessons and helps him create a classroom environment that eliminates fear.
In order to forward the conversations that are taking place in this country, we have to accept the fact that when we have these tough conversations, we’re going to make mistakes.
Harper shares a powerful story (time index 4:00 in Episode 61 embedded above) that demonstrates improbable courage and how owning his mistake and sharing it helped him overcome a potentially negative image.
He says that people are conditioned to “want to show the world our best side.” Then, when mistakes inevitably happen, people feel guilty, instead of realizing that they’re no different from everyone else.
Leverage the power of mistakes: In classic Hack Learning style, Harper says that the best thing to do with colleagues and with students is remarkably simple–admit your mistakes. When educators and parents share our failings and discuss how we’ve moved beyond them, people, especially kids, appreciate this honesty and learn more readily.
What You Can Do Tomorrow
Harper has learned from experienced educators how to embrace mistakes and leverage their power, in order to help kids improve. He suggests three simple strategies for getting started tomorrow:
1 – Have a “Family” Meeting: Bring students together and begin the conversation by telling them that you’re going to share a mistake you made with them. (Listen to an excellent example at time index 10:50 of the podcast.)
The more mistakes we share, the more powerful we become.
2 – Discuss student mistakes as a group: It’s easy to minimize a mistake by inviting the class to discuss it. Harper suggests beginning this discussion by explaining that the student is human and that we all make mistakes. Then, emphasize how we can learn from the error.
3 – Blog about mistakes: If both teachers and students write about their mistakes and lessons learned from them, they can share with peers and with the world, which can be cathartic for the blogger while making readers who may have made similar mistakes feel better about themselves.
What they will find is that pushing Publish is difficult. But once they do they will have legions of others thanking them for sharing. Not only that, they will also realize that they are not alone in making whatever mistake it is that they shared.
Jon Harper was a National Board Certified teacher before becoming an elementary school principal in Cambridge, Maryland. He is the host of the popular Bam Radio Network podcast, My Bad, where he interviews experienced educators about their mistakes and what they learn from them. Follow Jon’s work at his My Bad podcast and on his Bam Radio Blog.
What do you think?
It’s time to embrace mistakes, but how do we do it? Please share your thoughts in comments below, on Twitter at #Hacklearning and on our Facebook page.
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