Mistakes are Awesome

By Gregory Bertsch, M. Ed.

Posted: September 21, 2022

A child using a headphone

The most important saying in my classrooms has always been, “MISTAKES ARE AWESOME!!”

Ask any adult and they will tell you the opposite. How do we treat mistakes normally? We try at all costs to avoid them. Why? Who said it was bad to make a mistake. What rule book stated you are not enough if you make a lot of them. We are creating a culture of people that fear failure so much that they will never take a risk, never be bold enough to try something they might fail at, never try to go beyond their own expectations, and never feel fulfilled. So much angst is caused by this fear that we have given into making everything safe and just so.

Public Education has been standardized and now we hold children to this ideal that they are not good enough if they don’t do well on a test. We run our entire public education system on this premise that one size fits all. Teachers now spend so much of their time trying to get students to do well on a test that the actual learning has become secondary to a score. I have seen 1st graders in tears because they can’t answer a question on a standardized test. Not to mention the question was poorly worded in the first place and with an open mind could have two possible answers.

Mistakes are what make us who we are. We learn by failing at something and get stronger as our mind adapts to find the answers. When children are celebrated when they make a mistake they in turn learn to let go of judging mistakes as a negative. One step further is to celebrate other people when they make a mistake and then we have a culture of support rather than judgment. When kids stop being afraid to make a mistake they will take more risks with their learning. They will try something new and unknown with anticipation and joy rather than fear. So many well known people in the world would never have accomplished such greatness without letting go of their fear of failure. We should be more invested in creativity, imagination, self esteem, and joy in learning rather than test taking. A child with an imagination who is allowed to make mistakes and be creative will learn how to handle what life gives them and not fall apart but actually become stronger and more resilient. I have watched the power of children supporting each other in my classroom when one student makes a mistake and the rest of the class taps their heart and repeats out loud that mistakes are awesome! Imagine if we were held in such high regard? All the mistakes in your life have made you who you are. We learn from the challenge of failure and we hopefully grow. Plus celebrating the effort is so much more fun than pointing the finger. Mistakes are Awesome and Kindness Matters.