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An Environment That Is Friendly To Mistakes

I remember myself as a child being called up to the blackboard, not sure how to answer the problem. It is possible that I didn’t fully understand the material, or couldn’t apply it to the question. I remember feeling the eyes of my teacher and my peers on me as I made mistakes as I put up the wrong answer on the board. From that experience I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and unwilling to try again. Today, this is still a problem within our classrooms; students are afraid of making mistakes.

Now a teacher myself, I want to help my students realize that mistakes are necessary for learning and growth. In Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindset, she points out these two important notions; that the “brain is constantly creating new pathways as it learns, and mistakes are a crucial part of the learning process and the formations of these pathways.”

When the fear of being wrong is minimized in a classroom, confidence grows and so can the love for the subject matter. As a teacher, I want to make sure that the passion my students have for my subjects never dies out because they’re afraid of doing something wrong.

In order to address this major problem, I started using dry-erase adhesive on the tables to change them into “white-tables.” The white-table is a simple tool that my students use that teaches them what’s most important to take from my class: not to be afraid of making mistakes and to collaborate with peers.

Because the white-table isn’t put on singular desks and instead something the entire table can use, students are able to work efficiently together and ask for help by peers they trust. They learn how to cooperate, ask questions, and use each other as resources to help their own learning. I can see now that my students aren’t afraid of trying out new things in the classroom. They are all able to actively engage and participate with the material instead of only watching one student head up to the board.

White-table, a simple tool able to make a huge impact on a student’s confidence, comfort, and passion for the material.

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