My Favorite Quote of All Time

“You can’t learn from your mistakes if you think you don’t make any.”

I don’t know who said this. Maybe I did. At any rate, a lot of people have thought the same thing. At some point I wrote it down and made a sign for my wall at school.

I like this statement because it shrinks most of my teaching philosophy down into thirteen words. What it means to me is that it is less important to get the right answers than it is to learn from the wrong answers.

Students leave their papers blank, waiting to hear the right answer. If someone says it, and I approve it, they dutifully right it down. They have a nice, neat paper — and they have learned NOTHING.

Getting a good grade when you haven’t learned anything is like getting paid in Monopoly money. It may make you feel good while you’re playing the game, but in the real world it’s worthless.

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