In my classroom we use a huge e-vap fan. It’s my job to empty it every Friday so it can dry out over the weekend. On Monday I am supposed to fill it back up. It holds close to 30 gallons of water and takes a good 5 or 6 minutes to fill up. Last week I rolled my fan down to the shared bathrooms as usual, attached the hose as usual, turned on the water as usual, went back to my room to do something as usual, and went to check on the progress a few minutes later as usual. It was only about 40% full so I decided to do something else in my room as it filled the rest of the way. Well, I forgot… A few minutes later I heard one of the Thai teachers yell, “Ooooooooo!” As soon as I heard her and saw her run by I remembered that I had left the water on. My heart dropped. I followed her and sure enough there was water running all the way down the hall.
“Oh no! I’m so sorry!!” I called lamely as I met her at the terrible mess. She could have been upset. She could have called me irresponsible (which I had been), she could have yelled at me to clean up my mess. But you know what? She immediately reassured me that it was okay and ran to get cleaning materials. Together we cleaned it up in about 10 minutes: me using a sponge mop and her using a straw broom and dustpan (typical Thai).
This made me realize how important our responses to mistakes are. When we make mistakes, other’s reactions can greatly affect our overall experience. I already knew that I had done something stupid, but my friend’s response made me feel like it was going to be okay. She worked with me positively to fix the problem.
When your student or child makes a mistake, please react as gently and kindly as possible! Help them recognize the problem. Kids who are older may be able to identify the problem themselves, but younger kids will need help with this step.
1) Let them know that things will be okay and you will help.
2) Work through the solution together.
3) Talk about what should be done differently the next time. (My students suggested that I stay by the fan as it fills in the future J).
4) Remind them that everyone makes mistakes. I feel like this is really healthy for kids to understand.
Now I realize that for some situations there will need to be an additional consequence (say they broke a neighbors window—they would need to pay for a new window), but overall these steps are universal. We all make mistakes—that’s just part of life. A part of life you can help your kids understand and work through.