Let Them Make Mistakes

Photo Credit: Mi’Jirah King

“Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.”
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Avonlea

As a teacher, there is a big push for our kids to do well and pass. We get notice of failure rates and questions of how our students could do better or could have passed. In and of itself, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. However, there are times that these strategies can hinder them from basic life lessons.

Let me explain.

Growth is a process; it’s not instantaneous. I once met a guy, went on dates with him and completely liked him. Though I liked the guy at heart, the relationship was not what I wanted. We were not on the same page. I knew this. Yet, I continued to go out with him. For a moment, I liked doing what I wanted to do. I enjoyed it. However, over time, I no longer enjoyed it but was stuck. I struggled to get out of my own decision. Because I was not receiving what I desired or knew I deserved, I experienced tremendous hurt and pain. I knew my decisions did not honor nor glorify God.

So, I prayed.

But the problem was still there. God didn’t just remove it. So, I continued to pray. I told my closest friends and mentors about my problem. They did not agree with the relationship, but they didn’t get a shotgun and kill him (seriously). They prayed with me, checked on me and just surrounded me with love and encouragement. And some days, I did not make the mistake of giving my time to someone who didn’t deserve it. But every time I took one step forward, I took two steps back.

So, I prayed. I cried! God, help me! Why can’t I change this?


I think I inwardly hoped God would just remove this problem. But he didn’t. So I continued to pray and trust and depend on my support system. It was hard! Some days were tougher than others. But eventually, I started to take more steps forward than steps back.

Although God didn’t immediately rescue me from my situation, he used it to teach me to not give my time to those who don’t deserve it. He showed me people who would help me by encouraging me when I succeeded and not enable my behavior (although some did, I learned that they wouldn’t help me if I wanted to be successful in this). Now I can take what I learned from my mistake and poor decision, and apply it to my future relationships.


IMG_5608So how does this pertain to my students?

When our students are not performing to their ability, whether it be through their own negligence or lack of understanding, we shouldn’t just immediately rescue them. If God had snapped his fingers and removed this person from my life, chances are I would probably find someone else like him to make the same error with again. Leaving me in the struggle that my poor choices caused allowed me to feel the pain of my decision. Initially, my resistance to leaving the relationship was due to naivety–hopelessly thinking things would get better. Then I realized I allowed this man to come before God. That was my mistake. I knew that should not be. I knew I had to fight to do what I knew had to be done. And quite frankly, some days I didn’t want to. However, when the pain became too much, I knew I had to. My pastor has always made the statement, “Until the pain of change hurts more than the pain of staying the same, you’ll never change.” The pain was too much for me. Likewise, our students’ pain of failing or getting in trouble or whatever– has to get to a point where it hurts more to stay the same than change.

Until the pain of change hurts more than the pain of staying the same, you’ll never change.

Am I saying let them make stupid mistakes that could get them hurt? No! But let them make mistakes in a “safe” zone. Is your classroom a safe place? Do they know your discipline or resistance to “rescue” them comes out of love? My support system didn’t drag me from making my choices. They listened and let me fail, but offered advice on what to do differently. And when I chose to nod my head “yes” and beat my chest “no,” they didn’t stop loving me or give up on me. Were they frustrated? At times. But they walked with me through the valley and over the mountain towards the top of the hill.


What will you do?

Will you enable your students to dodge failure and believe that the world is kinder to them than it truly is. Or, will you enable them to make mistakes and learn from them? Grow? Become individuals who can do the same? Encourage them to come to tutorials. Teach them  to prioritize what is necessary in place of what they want. Teach them that mistakes are OK. Mistakes are a part of life.

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”
― Rita Mae BrownAlma Mater

“But what if I make a mistake?’ Will asked.

Gilan threw back his head and laughed. ‘A mistake? One mistake? You should be so lucky. You’ll make dozens! I made four or five on my first day alone! Of course you’ll make mistakes. Just don’t make any of them twice. If you do mess things up, don’t try to hide it. Don’t try to rationalize it. Recognize it and admit it and learn from it. We never stop learning, none of us.”
― John FlanaganErak’s Ransom 


3 thoughts on “Let Them Make Mistakes

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