When I approach something in which I lack confidence, the ‘door prize’ that pulls me into the process is knowing that I can make errors – as many as it takes! So when I was confronted with a house that did not have soffits, gutters, or facia, I called as many contractors as I could. I had insulation sticking out of the sides of my roof and someone told we that I needed soffits, gutters and facia. I knew that we had purchsed an unfinished house, that was clear, but I didn’t know I was a landlord to a family of squirrels, numerous birds and other creatures – all calling my roof ‘home’.
First of all, I did not know what facia or soffits were. I knew they were located near the roof and not in the kitchen, but I would not have been able to speak with much authority beyond that.
I had the summer to figure out a solution and I called 3 different contractors, all of whom neglected to show up, so I started at the contractors counter at my local building centre. Armed with a digital camera and 102 questions I got a start. The guy told me, ‘Do the step I just explained, and when you are finished, ask me what to do next.’ I told my wife, ‘the worst case scenario is that I totally botch this up and I tear it all down.’ Disguising her doubt as only a great wife can, she said ‘go for it’ .
Many more questions, a number of errors and 5 weeks later, my house had soffits, facia and gutters. More importantly, I had the confidence to start the next project. I will share more on that later. If I hadn’t had the luxury of error, the latitude to figure it out sans unreasonable penalty (mine was the cost of time and materials) and time to tinker, I would never have started the process at all. I wonder what would happen if we could build an education system that resembled the way people take on hobbies, interests and projects? It is uncanny the way in which hobbyists delve, learn and conquer what they don’t know about their own interests. I wish the same for my students, and I know that letting them make mistakes and LEARN from those errors is a window into increasing their levels of motivation. Take any group of people, a group of teachers would be no different, give them new information and tell them that the measure of their knowledge retention will be a one-shot test. The evidence of stress would be immediate, and for good reason. Retests, practice, simulation, modeling – call it what you want, but I think it is imperative that we construct learning environments in which mistakes are welcomed and examined, but most importantly, a natural part of the process.