Handling our mistakes
by Brian Radcliffe
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider how we can react when things go wrong.
Preparation and materials
- None required.
- Ask the children, ‘How do you feel when you are waiting for a piece of work back from your teacher after it has been marked?’
Listen to a range of responses.
Ask the children, ‘How do you feel when you get something wrong or make a mistake of some kind?’
Listen to a range of responses.
- Some of us do really well at schoolwork, but others find it more difficult. However, life is about more than schoolwork. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, we say the wrong thing, hurt people with our words or make the wrong choices. Nobody, including the teachers, can avoid getting things wrong sometimes.
- There are times when we can put mistakes behind us quite easily and move on. Sometimes, we might get a second chance and can do better.
However, there are other times when getting it wrong can affect us deeply. We wonder what everyone else thinks of us. We feel disappointed. We might be confused about the mistake that we made. We thought that we were right, but apparently not. None of us enjoys getting things wrong!
- Scientists know that getting things wrong is an important part of science. Scientific research is about trying different approaches to a situation and observing the results. For every scientific breakthrough, there will be dozens - maybe hundreds or thousands - of times when there is no sign of a significant development. One day, a breakthrough will happen, things will go right and scientific advances will be made . . . but a lot will have gone wrong first!
Time for reflection
Christians believe that we are all prone to getting things wrong, at least some of the time. St Paul describes it like this: ‘Even when I want to do the good and right thing, I don’t. In fact, I tend to do the very thing I don’t want to do.’ (Romans 7.18-19)
Christians believe that we won’t ever get it right all the time.
So, what can we do about it?
It’s helpful to start by considering why we got things wrong. In our schoolwork, it could be because we didn’t understand the question. We have a good chance of fixing that by asking our teacher to explain things again.
Looking more widely, it’s worth thinking about how we were feeling when we made a mistake. Were we tired, feeling ill or out of sorts? Fall-outs with our friends can often arise from trivial things that grow bigger because of how we were feeling – tired, sad and so on.
Also, when we made a wrong decision, did we have all the information that we needed? Were we hasty in our words or actions? Who were we with? How did the mistake occur?
The next step is to explore how we could have done things differently. Maybe we needed to ask our teacher for help or have an early night. If others have been affected by our mistake, we should admit it and apologize. The forgiveness of others is a helpful remedy to what went wrong. Let’s remember this when others do us wrong too!
Finally, we should always be ready to seek help, support and advice. There are lots of people in school and outside it who can help [you may wish to outline the support available]. It can also be helpful to develop relationships with people we regard as inspirational, encouraging or resourceful, people we can look up to. For St Paul, that person was Jesus, and many people follow the same path today.
‘Surface pressure’ from the film Encanto, available at: https://youtu.be/tQwVKr8rCYw (3.30 minutes long)