The need to be right can be wrong

Can I…? Is it okay to…? Can I check if…? These are but some question starters commonly used by students in my classes. They needed to know if they were on the right track before they could move on to the next part of the assignment. Instead of exercising judgement and interpret question requirements, they decided to put possible interpretations before me and their most common question – which is the correct answer? Even though the course I happen to teach is Creative Thinking.

Despite constant assurance that they will not be penalized for interpreting the question differently from how I do, students’ desire to be right remained strong. While such behavior frustrates me no end, I do not blame them, for this is possibly due to their educational experience thus far. I mean, as early in our education as in our kindergarten years, we are awarded marks only for correct answers or part of the answer that is correct. How is it possible for students not to be uptight about getting things right?

As I reflect on these recent interactions, I wish with all sincerity to be able to spend more time teaching failure and the good of failure, for failures are every bit as valuable, if not more valuable than success. At the very least, failures allow us to learn in ways that success can never seek to replicate. I also wish I would remember to affirm students for the effort they put into mastering the skills and techniques, as opposed to taking short cuts to ace the subject, for baring fluke situations, the diligent will eventually have its day of success.

I wish… I wish… I wish… It was my failure to do things right the first time that gave rise to these insights that I would otherwise not have. I believe I have just made my point. 😋

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