• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

You Have To Start Somewhere

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

We might not be aware of it, but we are learning something new every day whether it be the name of a new #student or even more productive, a new skill such as cooking for the first time or learning how to write a cv. Whether we consider ourselves a #lifelonglearner or not, we all at one point in our lives learn a new skill for life, school or work, and we are learning throughout our lives. Embedded within this philosophy of lifelong learning is the idea that you should learn from your #mistakes in order to learn more. So, being afraid to make mistakes might be a hurdle for learning to some. Why is it that we are afraid to make mistakes? Gustavo Razzetti in Psychology Today writes, “The worst mistake is not making mistakes. Life is trial and error. We cannot learn without failing first.”

I wonder at which point in #development we start being afraid to make mistakes as if we had to protect our claim on a certain amount of #knowledge that we had mastered and making a mistake would invalidate that claim to mastery. When in life does this #process occur? For those of us who grew up with high #expectations, failing can be quite a #penalty. Razzetti says we must be able to recognize our #faults. That requires a good deal of #introspection and reflection. You might think this is an adult process, but Razzetti claims it starts with early #education in the schools. “The desire to play safe develops mistake intolerance. . . . We educate children to know the right answer, not to discover it. . . . Our #mistake mindset is shaped at #school.”

One reason I love teaching #writing as a process is because students have many chances to rethink and rework, starting with the #brainstorming process and moving toward the peer review and revision. This is a #discoveryprocess with many #steps, and I would argue that the step process to solving problems or tasks is very practical and resolves with impact. You could say it is similar to Razzetti’s #philosophy of “progress through trial and error.” In fact, many people, including academics, could learn something from his advice to “avoid perfectionism and own your mistake.” I would be surprised if many had not heard the exclamation “don’t beat yourself up” due to perfectionist behavior. Razzetti would say “label the mistake, not yourself.” This reminds me of the theory for raising children whereby you focus on the behavior and not the child so that child does not think he/she is bad. It is also a good practice for adults. Finally, and maybe most importantly, you have to have some humility and be willing try things throughout life for the first time and risk screwing up. The idea you have to embrace is that with every new task or skill, you have to start somewhere.

For more of Barbara's Blogs, go to www.thewaylearningworks.com/blog.

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