I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the pressure we put on ourselves to be right. I’m not sure how we arrived at this point but it seems to me that the fear of being wrong is more motivating than the satisfaction of getting something correct, and I don’t think that’s healthy. We need to spend more time getting comfortable with the idea that our answers won’t always be spot-on; the better we get at that, the more we are going to grow as people and as learners.
I recently watched a TED talk by Kathryn Schulz, a self proclaimed Wrongologist who encourages us to embrace the fact that we will always get it wrong, at least to some extent. What I thought was the most impactful part of her talk was when she explained an association that is cemented, often at an early age, and it is this: getting something wrong means there is something wrong with us. As adults, we know that’s not true, but it’s tough to derail that train of thought once it has left the station and sadly that will likely happen at a young age.
I’m not sure how we flip that mindset altogether and get our young people thinking differently about being wrong, but there are a few ideas I would like our Condit cats to embrace before they leave us for middle school.
The first is this: getting something wrong doesn’t mean you will always get everything wrong. A mistake doesn’t guarantee anything, the way you feel about it and the way you react to it will dictate how things go in the future.
The second reality I would like our kids to embrace is that being right doesn’t mean that everyone else is wrong. Our current presidential election has me thinking about this aspect quite a bit; it saddens me that election rhetoric has led so many people to think of the world in binary terms. School, and the world, is a complex place and if we spend our time marginalizing those who don’t see the world exactly as we see it then we begin to close our minds to possibilities.
Finally, get used to being wrong. You are going to say the wrong thing, get a bad grade, have a mark on your chart, and put your foot in your mouth…maybe all on the same day! This is going to seem contrary to many people reading this, but it is a gift to have our kindergarteners struggle and deal with getting things wrong. The uncomfortable truth is that 5 year olds will often deal with being wrong much better than 25 year olds, and the sad reality is that we are doing it to ourselves. The more we make wrong a bad word, the worse we make it when it eventually happens.
So what do we do about all this? I figure we embrace our experiences, celebrate our missteps, chart a new path forward, and help our kids to know that even after that bad grade and after that mark on the conduct chart that the sun will rise, the earth will continue to rotate and life will go on. The sooner they learn that, and the more regularly they embrace that, the better off we will all be.