“Teacher, I forgot to do my homework”
“Why haven’t you forgotten your head instead?”
Most of the teachers at my elementary school felt themselves responsible for making us pay for our errors by punishing, humiliating in front of the class or even calling our parents. I always felt sorry for one boy, Utegenov, who usually had to stand in front of the class while listening to the teacher’s sermons. His head down, he would then follow her finger which pointed to the corner of the classroom. Did it change anything? No. Every day was Groundhog Day for him. Lessons associated with humiliation and fear of failure are never going to inspire children to study. The students learn best in a mistake-friendly environment and when they are told that making mistakes is normal.
Just out of curiosity, I tried typing “дети учатся лучше когда …” (students learn best when) on the search engine and the findings were not surprising at all. “When parents believe in them” and “when they do mistakes” are the most popular ones. One of the reasons of fearing failure is high expectations (Steifer, 2001). It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that parents believe in their child’s abilities. The notion that the failure equals intellectual inferiority is fundamentally wrong. Students who are afraid to fail are most likely to abate their efforts next time (Cole, 2014). There is even a word for the fear of failure – atychiphobia. To change the attitude towards the mistakes, children should be taught that failures are inevitable and they should be viewed as valuable lessons.
By creating a psychologically safe place for children, it is likely that we diminish the chance that students will become reluctant to learn. According to the most eminent proponent of human development theory, Albert Bandura (1989), it is crucial that one has a belief in one’s own efficacy:
Persons who have a strong sense of efficacy deploy their attention and effort to the demands of the situation and are spurred by obstacles to greater effort (p. 394).
Hence, one particular solution comes to my mind. Imagine those children so excited to write their first letters at class, pinching the pen between those little thumb and point finger. They do their best to write correctly and neatly, but mostly they fail to do it the first times and unmerciful red “F” is written in their workbooks. Imagine another situation where children are given pencils instead of pens. They would be able to erase their mistakes and have a chance to correct them – this would be a good lesson to start with. Helping children to perceive their mistakes positively is priceless. Even when we have to discipline children, teachers and adults should uphold the dignity of the children because as in the case of Utegenov, humiliation never worked and never will.
Bandura, A. (1989). Regulation of cognitive processes through perceived self-efficacy. Developmental psychology, 25(5), 394.
Cole, S. “Fail again. Fail better.” Failure in the Creative Process. Steifer, S. J. (2001, 10). Don’t let fear of failure hold you back! Current Health 1, 25, 14-16. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/209833604?accountid=134066
Steifer, S. J. (2001,10). Don’t let fear of failure hold you back! Current Health 1, 25, 14-16. Retrieved from http://http://search.proquest.com/docview/209833604?accountid=134066