(Originally posted on mistakesLeading Inspired.)

We’ve all heard the quote by Vince Lombardi, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”


Every moment is a learning experience. Mistakes are no different. We all make mistakes. We are human – it is bound to happen. If we are not willing to admit our blunders, then this world would be filled with pompous individuals, not willing to budge in their ways or their thinking. While we don’t like making mistakes, they happen, and it is how we overcome them that defines their role in our lives.

I’ve determined that this is the perseverance we must instill in ourselves and our students. If we want to grow and be our best, we must get up from our lapses, make what was wrong right, and move forward. Panicking then dwelling on the mishap isn’t going to change anything and it is definitely not going to fix the problem!

If we chastise mistakes and mishaps, there is only one outcome – fear. Allowing fear to run our lives is a terrible way to live. We go through the comfortable motions and never try anything new. I’ve seen how this affects me, our kids, and my staff. For me, my anxiety runs high, I worry continually over the little things, and am truly not productive. I cannot accomplish any task, I dread my work, and eventually retreat to what I already know and am comfortable in doing.

When our kids are chastised for mistakes, they live in fear too. Think about a child who is continually belittled. Their lack of self- confidence and self-esteem diminishes their ability to think clearly or productively, and after a while, they tune it out and become numb to their mistakes, never learning to change their ways. Risk-taking in a classroom and their creativity has been stifled. They fear making a mistake.

Teachers often feel this way too. Unfortunately, the standardization of our educational arenas have built a culture of the fear of making mistakes. What if the lesson wasn’t perfect? What if it didn’t go as planned? What is my principal walks in a sees the lesson that didn’t go quite the way I had expected it? Instead of taking chances and risks, teachers feel trapped in what they have always done because they believe it has worked.

Let’s take a different approach to mistakes. Instead of chastising them and feeling bad when they are made, we need to embrace them. By embracing a mistake, we accept what they are, move on, and learn from them. To do this takes courage and perseverance, because our society is ready to jump on those who openly admit their mistakes. It is almost as if some are ready to pounce, like a cat playing with a feather. But for me, I embrace them. I’m ready to take the high road, the positive approach, not making excuses, but accepting the mistake to learn and grow. Through my reflections, I learn what to do next time, and take another chance.

For our students and teachers, this can be a game-changing approach. Creativity will flourish, as students and teachers feel as though they can take chances, and they might work, or they might not, but no one is there to judge and make them feel terrible for what they tried to do, as long as it is made in their best efforts and judgment. Grades reflect growth, creativity, and innovation, not compliance. Classwork is no longer a script to follow, but a chance to try something new and learn from it.

We all make mistakes, but it is how we deal with them that matters most. As a lead learner, I know I will make plenty of mistakes for a lot of people to see. Trust me, I already have. But, I always want what is best for our students and our school, and so by embracing those mistakes and mishaps, I accept what happened, reflect and learn, and move on, trying something different so that our students and school benefit in a positive way.

photo credit: i.am.rebecca via photopin cc
Amy Heavin is the Principal / Lead Learner at Ryan Park Elementary School in Angola, Indiana. She shares her insights on her website, Leading Inspired. Follow Amy on Twitter at @AmyHeavin.