“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams
No-one wants to make a mistake. It’s embarrassing, scary, and something to hide. But is this the right attitude towards mistakes?
I’ve recently read a fascinating book; ‘Mistakes were Made, But not by Me’. This book really changed the way I think about mistakes. So I’ve reflected on some of my own experiences of running an after school drama club, and how mistakes have led to some real insight. I hope you find it useful, and that perhaps we can all learn to see mistakes in a new light.
1.) From mistakes grows confidence
“Can I have a go first??”
During drama club I have seen children who literally cannot sit still they are so excited to have a go at performing. I have also seen children too frightened to even raise their hand to answer a question. When asked why, they said it was embarrassing. They were afraid of making a mistake and therefore looking stupid in front of their friends.
Over the weeks, I noticed that the children who gained in confidence were those who were willing to try something new. They were happy to have a go, even if they made a mistake or it didn’t go perfectly. Those who had a go weren’t always the better performers or the ones who knew all the answers. But they became more confident. And the more they kept trying, the better they got.
This made me realise that it’s not so much being ‘good’ at something that matters. It’s about being willing to give something new a try. Learning how to keep trying and tackling that fear of failure is so key to any child or adult’s success. Drama can be a wonderful platform to learn this confidence and to know that it’s ok to make a mistake. That’s how we learn, get better and eventually thrive.
2.) Mistakes can be maverick
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill
A fun little story to share with you. My dad hated school. He found lessons dull so he tried to make pupils laugh by being a bit daft. One day he turned up to school with all his books in a suitcase, another day he rode the bus journey with a lampshade on his head. Just because.
The teachers didn’t like this one bit. They saw his fun, silly nature as disobedience. He was told he wouldn’t do well in later life. And what do you think he grew up to be??
A teacher!! And a great one at that. Because he could relate to the children. He had empathy with them, and shared their love of laughter.
My dad’s teachers said he would regret his behaviour at school. On the contrary, Dad knew how boring it can be for some pupils, and had empathy with them. He was always trying new things and finding new ways to make learning fun. This made him a fantastic teacher and eventually headteacher.
‘Mistakes’ are sometimes in the eye of the beholder.
3.) The biggest mistake is never making mistakes
“You’ll find boredom where there is an absence of a good idea” – Earl Nightingale
I have a pet peeve. I absolutely cannot STAND being bored. (Well, I am my father’s child!) Being bored out of your mind is fruitless and unpleasant. That’s not to say that rest isn’t important. Quality rest and quieter activities such as meditation are hugely valuable and a key part of a balanced life. No, I’m talking about being trapped in a grey, bland room whilst a monotone voice drones on with a wordy powerpoint blaring behind them for an hour and a half. Whhyyyy…
All learning, whether it’s children’s curriculum, staff training or an event, should be engaging, challenging, and FUN. This is something I wholeheartedly believe in, for adults as well as children. Why does it have to get so dull when you’re past 18? What did we do to deserve that?!? Why can’t we learn by doing fun, varied activities that make us laugh as well as learn?
Science agrees that having fun makes us better learners:
- A study in the journal, College Teaching, found that students could remember information from a lecture more easily when the lecturer included jokes.
- In the book, Neurologist, Judy Willis explains that fun experiences increase levels of dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen – all things that promote learning.
- In a study for the Journal of Vocational Behaviour, Michael Tews discovered that employees are more likely to try new things if their work environment is fun.
Here’s an example. At our most recent drama club we had the topic of respect. We were determined for ‘respect’ to be learnt in a fun and memorable way. So what did we do?
We asked the children to pretend to be the most disrespectful class possible. Of course, they absolutely loved that! We then talked about what we thought respect meant to us and others. The children then created their own plays from this discussion – starting their play by pretending to be a very disrespectful audience! Cough cough, rustle, whisper….
Learning should be engaging, challenging and fun at all ages. But that means doing something differently. It means trying things, failing and learning in order to improve. How can it be more fun? How could I spice up this boring task? Eventually you can come up with something truly innovative and, best of all, fun.
4.) Mistakes lead to insight
“And bad mistakes…. I’ve made a few….” – Queen.
I don’t know about you, but I can be really hard on myself if I’m not immediately perfect at something. And it turns out, no-one is perfect at leading a large group of excitable children in an after school drama club. Certainly not in their first term anyway! But that didn’t stop me berating myself if they didn’t listen or fell out with each other. I was very hard on myself when I first started out.
But now I’m learning to embrace these mistakes and see them as a gateway to insight. And when I start to hear that negative voice, I remind myself: I’m doing my best, and I’m learning all the time.
I thought that if I raised my voice the children wouldn’t come back. I did eventually raise my voice, and they did come back.
I’ve trialled new drama activities that sometimes went fantastically well, or ended up with several children banging their heads together (a trust exercise that took a bad turn – TrustGate 2015).
I’ve made TONS of mistakes. But if you don’t try or take a little risk, you don’t learn what works.
Over time we’ve gone from strength to strength, and had some magical classes where the kids leave with massive smiles on their faces. My confidence and skill is growing right alongside the children and adults I work with. We are all learning, making mistakes and achieving great things in those hours after school or in training. It’s always a challenge, it’s always interesting. We’ve all gained so much from our mistakes.
5.) Admitting mistakes gains respect
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” – Benjamin Franklin
This is surely the hardest thing to do. We know, deep down, we’ve made a mistake. But we do everything we can to deflect or make excuses.
Miss, he hit me.
Well she kept laughing at my work.
I did not, you kept kicking my chair!
You kicked mine first!
It’s excuses, it’s deflection. You may be reading this thinking ‘Ah children. So immature. I’m so glad I am a grown adult and totes mature and can admit my mistakes.’ But unfortunately… we adults are masters at dodging an apology.
Sorry, I snapped.
Yeah, you did a bit.
I was just tired and I’ve got a lot on my mind and you’d left all the pots out on the side again…
Have you ever made an apology like this? I know I have! Often we think that mistakes should be followed by a string of reasons and excuses. Actually, just a simple acknowledgement of the mistake and an apology is usually all a person wants to hear. And that courage can earn a huge amount of respect. It’s so important that we own up when we’ve made a mistake, including to children. We need to teach children that it’s responsible and mature to own up to mistakes, to regain trust and connect with others. We all make mistakes. It’s how you handle it afterwards that really defines you.
So, there we are, 5 reasons to see mistakes in a more positive light. I hope this has been useful and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
To learn more about our after school drama club or adult drama classes that we offer, visit our school and/or training pages on our website: www.fallintoplace.co.uk