5 Mistakes that Students and Teachers Should Make

Instead of avoiding failure, teachers and students should make these 10 mistakes.

by Julianne Capati, Spencer Taylor / November 22, 2010 0

No one likes failing. That's why people try not to make mistakes.

But mistakes lead to learning and growing. Mistakes challenge you to learn from them in order to succeed. Mistakes represent success in disguise.

Instead of avoiding failure, teachers and students should make these 10 mistakes.


5 mistakes students should make

1. Pick the wrong major
Students in their senior year often feel like there is a deadline before summer comes around. They need to know exactly what they want to do before they go to college or what they want to be when they grow up. It does not make it easier when a majority of students know exactly what they want to be: A doctor, a CEO, a lawyer, a nurse, a pharmacist. But there are students who just cannot decide at all. Laura Schmidt and Kourtney Nelson, who are seniors at the University of Arizona, say, “If you don’t know what to do, it’s OK!”

It is comforting to know that seniors at the college level are not quite sure where they want to go. It is also very important to remember that adults today were not what they originally wanted to be either. As a person gets further in their education, things can change, and so can plans for the future. A student should explore any possibility that interests him, and future careers might just be around the corner. Remember, “If you don’t know what to do, it’s OK!”

2. Get too involved
“Class is only a portion of a student’s life,” Kourtney Nelson emphasizes. Getting good grades and attending classes are all very important, but in the end, it is just a portion. Join clubs, help out with your community and strive to go above and beyond assignment guidelines.

In order to get the best out of the educational system, students should go out and get the education they want. They should learn about and participate in the things that interest and intrigue them. That will not only make the student a more knowledgeable and skilled individual, but also create a larger interest in the student's education.

Because of social networking sites, students can integrate events through Twitter and Facebook. Networking sites can get students more involved with volunteering work and nonprofit organizations. They can create events or tweet about charity events like Race for the Cure to get students to join and help out the cause.

3. Assume your teachers don’t know everything
Students may view their teachers as gods who know everything, but that really is not the case. Often they believe teachers have all the answers. Although they are here to teach us, their knowledge is not infinite. Teachers are human beings as well, and there are things that they do not know themselves. 

Students should view teachers as individuals who can help them grasp and understand concepts in class. They should be able to ask questions about details with the expectation that their teacher can answer their questions. However, teachers did not live through every event in history or make up every formula or theorem, so there should not be any sort of disappointment about the teachers if they do not know the tiniest of details.

Because students cannot always rely on their teachers for answers, students can research answers on their own. For example, when students are assigned research papers, they are required to look at reliable sources such as EBSCOhost, Thomson Gale or Google. This way, students find their own answers, make their own research and get their own opinions instead of having the teachers tell them the answers.

4. Take a day off
Luke Money, a junior at the University of Arizona, said when it comes to education, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In high school, it can be a bit easier to sleep in and miss a day of class. However, doing the same in college has some benefits and consequences.

In college, students have complete freedom compared to a high school student. But if a college student felt the need to sleep in and relax for a day, he might miss an important quiz or test just like any student who misses a day of school. At the same time, college students are paying for their education, so missing a day may not be the smartest idea.

In this sense, students have power in their education, but it is also their responsibility to learn and be proactive in their education. So students can slack off here and there, but they should always keep in mind how that might affect their schoolwork. Take a day off to recharge, check out class notes online and relax. You may come back a refreshed student. Just don’t do it too often!

5. Talk too much
Students can be under the impression that they must maintain some distance between themselves and their teachers. Intimidated, afraid, or whatever it might be, they do not confront their teacher when they have a problem about their class. Whatever the case, students cannot get help about a class if they remain distant from their teacher. It makes it troublesome for the student to get through the course.

Students need to be on friendly terms with their teachers in order to best get help in their classes. Students should e-mail their teachers or get extra help for their class. Go to office hours, stop in after school, or e-mail questions as they come. Not only will they get help, but they will also get the maximum potential of knowledge from the class.

In fact, talk more to your classmates and see what notes they took. Exchange phone numbers and e-mails so that in the off-chance you miss something, you have another resource. Talk to them during class and make connections early on.


Five mistakes that teachers should make

1. Let students fail
Empire High School government teacher Mr. Jeremy Gypton says that letting students fail by their own hand is — although technically a mistake — good for students. Throughout preparing to become a teacher, Mr. Gypton and others were told to help students through their struggles.

Essentially, teachers are being told to hold their students’ hands and give them stepping-stones to the answers of their education. However, letting students find their own path to answers in class is a key experience for them to become better students. If students can research and find out answers by themselves, then they will be able to excel in researching any topic, both in other classes and in life.

For example, Mrs. Dujmic and many teachers at Empire expect students to be creative with presentations because they have a laptop with various applications. Mrs. Dujmic said that when she asks her students to do their presentations, they are required to use two mediums of technology. The two mediums are not specified, so the students have the creative freedom to choose from a variety of tools such as PowerPoint, Keynote, iMovie, Presi, GarageBand, YouTube and projectors.

While PowerPoint is a popular tool to use for presentations in order to create a neat and informative presentation, using iMovie would give extra flare that could score the student more points. When a student using a tool that could flop for the specific type of presentation they need in relation to displaying information and creativity, they learn which mediums work best and which work the worst in certain situations.

2. Make bad lesson plans / make mistakes on content
Every student, and every class, is different. Lesson plans that work for some students do not work for all, and teaching methods that are perfect for one course may not be for another. Empire High School math teacher Mr. Billy Campbell states that when teachers go out of the norm to make a creative lesson plan, it might completely fall through with a class. That experience of trial and error in making lesson plans will help a teacher know what type of work is most beneficial for students in regards to work ethic and retaining information. Also, teachers should not be afraid to slip up once in a while in their words or writing because when students make mistakes, then they will engage during a lesson by creating a discussion about how to correct the mistake. Use technology that you are not totally familiar with.

There are some assignments that should not be given as much creative freedom as others. During my junior year history class, students were told to create a presentation about certain events in American history and then to teach the class using the presentation. The presentations made in that class varied from PowerPoint-type presentations to iMovies to speeches or skits. The least informative, on average, were the students who made iMovies. When it comes to iMovies, students like to be flashy with a lack of text. Audio is a nice addition to an iMovie that can really enhance the project, but some students see it as a way to showcase their favorite bands in an irrelevant manner. Then students are required to take notes on the presentations and use them as information on events that would be on future tests/quizzes. So for the benefit of the entire class, it would have helped to limit the creative aspect to a more structured project that would be as informative and relevant as possible.

3. Waste time
Waste time to see who your students are and what they know.  Teachers may feel pressure to spend every single moment on content, but getting to know your students and their knowledge can actually save you time in the long run. A teacher at the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, Terry Wimmer, keeps flashcards of his students. He makes the flashcards on the first day of school and has students tell him their basic information as well as an interesting thing about them, which helps him know something about them.

Attached to each student’s card is a picture of that student. That way Mr. Wimmer can come to his classes during the second week of school and know who his students are. His method of getting to know his students is beneficial for multiple reasons. Mr. Wimmer’s students will not be able to hide behind anonymity, and he will be able to call them out. Also, students feel more comfortable in a class when their teacher knows who they are.

Before making lesson plans that integrate technology use, it would help to learn where students are in regards to that technology. A helpful part in the process of a teacher learning about their students is getting to know where they are with tools that will be used in class. If teachers find out which students are experts with programs and which students have never touched them, they can make future lessons plans around that. They will know when to have mini introductory lessons for programs, when to assign students to help others, and when no introductions are necessary.
4. Ignore your reputation
Many teachers want to earn the vote of best teacher, but sometimes not being the most favorable teacher can help your students. Even though giving the hardest tests at a school may not be seen as the coolest thing to students, it will give the students more incentive to learn. For instance, in my Senior Composition class, the tests on books that we read are largely on minute details — things such as which word two characters used to describe an object. Although this test makes students have to read every word of the book to ensure a passing grade, it is what makes the book a better learning tool for students. And just because students like multiple choice or true and false more doesn't mean that those types of questions have to be on a test. Discussion questions often invoke stronger thought.

Students often hate it when teachers start the year off by grading as strictly as possible. Many teachers find it easier when they start off with easy assignments and lenient grading and then gradually get harder, but some of the teachers at Empire — especially English teachers — have the same expectations from the first day to the last. Starting off strict — and continuing to be — gives less wiggle room for the students that like to take advantage of a teacher’s lenience. All teachers know that those are the students that interrupt class and make it annoying for everyone to have to sit through lectures on how to not act like a five-year-old. So even though being strict might not make a teacher the most popular, it can make a class run a whole lot smoother and at a better pace.

5. Set standards too high
It is a good thing for teachers not to have low standards so that they have room to push students and make their students become better educated and driven. However, not every student has the same levels of talent and know-how. While one standard is achievable for one student, it may be impossible for another. The same goes for standards for the entire class. John de Dios says that while one group of students may blow a teacher’s standards out of the water, another group might struggle to get to the OK point. This means that teachers should have a moderately high standard that is achievable by the average student, but is still high enough to challenge students and push them to a better education.

In regards to technology, students are also at different levels of experience and know-how due to their backgrounds. There are many students at Empire who are very experienced with computers and can write coding for websites with ease. However, there are other students who struggle with applications, even when using toolbars and buttons. In certain classes when tools are first integrated into a class, such as Photoshop into photography class, a teacher has no idea how well students can use the program.

About the Authors:

Julianne Capati is a student at Empire High School who loves art class and learning.

Spencer Taylor is also a student at Empire High School who did not think hard enough to put something creative for his little bio thing.