Monday, September 10, 2012


During the first week of school, several of my students seemed discouraged by their failure to give correct answers to my questions, and, later, I thought of sailors and troublesome winds. When good mariners face forceful winds, they don’t get disheartened, as my young students did last week, but rather they work with the winds. They know, actually, that nothing is better for bringing a boat to its destination than spirited winds, and so they, in a sense, surrender to the winds, and in doing so are able to use them to their benefit.  They realize – and I wish I my students could see this – that difficult conditions can create the occasion for unforeseen and sometimes startling success.  Wild winds at sea can be a blessing to seasoned sailors, and wrong answers can make unexpected magic for my students. After all – and I will explain this to the students again and again – learning lets itself into our lives most easily through our mistakes, just as the best sailing sometimes springs from seemingly opposing winds. Each time the kids came up with wrong answers last week, a little more wisdom worked its way into their lives, for – though they probably didn’t realize it -- they used their errors to learn something new, just like sailors use hostile winds to help them on their way.  Sailors aren’t dissuaded by gusts and squalls, and my students shouldn’t be discouraged by their mistakes. In fact, they should actually be grateful that they’re inexperienced enough to make mistakes, because mistakes, like stormy times at sea, can be turned into serious progress.

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