Tuesday Teacher Tips: Valuing the Wrong Turns

Welcome to the Tuesday Teacher Tips series! Each week we’ll highlight teaching and learning resources, ideas to use in the classroom, as well as things to ponder as you go about your teaching day.

 “Mistakes are the portals of discovery” – James Joyce

There are many times when driving to a new place that I’ve gotten lost. Temporarily this is always an inconvenience, especially if I was already running late. But when this happens I pull over, take out my map, and locate my current location. The next thing I do is figure out where I was going and how to get there. It’s during this process of stopping and reevaluating that I usually realize where I made the wrong turn.

In the meantime, I’ve learned a whole new part of the city that I never knew before. And the next time I’m in this neighborhood I can easily navigate, since I’ve learned from my experience of errors. Every year I share this with my students.

Recently, my class was working on three-digit subtraction that required regrouping. I put a problem on the board and gave them time to solve it. When they had finished, I invited students to demonstrate and explain how they solved the equation.

As he listened to one his peers, one student in the room gasped, “Oh! That was my wrong turn!” I could almost see the big cartoon light bulb flash above his head. He volunteered to explain his mistake and told the class what he learned for future problems.

I believe that the most valuable learning experiences are our errors. The journey that takes us on winding paths and wronged forks in the road sometimes gives us the needed tools for future problem solving and makes the end destination of understanding so much sweeter.

What stories from your life do you share with your students to help them in their learning process? We’d love to hear them!