Teaching reflections #3: Making mistakes when teaching

Mistakes happen. I’ve certainly made my share.

However, instructors FREAK OUT when they make mistakes when teaching. They mistype something, misconfigure some setting, make syntax errors, and so forth.

Then they edit the video, completely concerned that they look stupid.

Through the years, my students taught me that my mistakes were a powerful moment for them.

First: OMG the instructor makes that SAME MISTAKE that I do all the time! Wow!!! (There’s power in seeing yourself in a role model.)

Second: When I make a mistake, I don’t FREAK OUT. I look at the problem and try to figure it out. I ask the class what I did wrong. I model how to debug an error. This is important. Students are going to make errors too. Do they know how to debug?

Finally: Even when I’m on video and I make a mistake, I don’t edit out the problem in my own videos. (For commercial video, this is another matter, of course.) Again, students should know that errors happen to everyone and tracking down the problem is part of programming.

Indeed, that’s the biggest takeaway: Everyone makes mistakes, so why can’t you? It’s part of programming and learning.

Jen Kramer @jen4web