The Courage to Be Imperfect

In order to learn, all of us need to be willing to take some risk and make mistakes. That takes courage and it takes a safe space. To create the space for learning you, as the teacher have to make it safe for your students to try something that is hard. They need to know that no one will laugh at them or shame them for not getting it right. You, as the leader of your classroom, can help your students build their courage to try new things, to speak in their own voice be part of your classroom community. Here are some ideas for helping your students grow their courage:

  • Actively teach that mistakes are opportunities to learn. Follow the lesson by acknowledging your mistakes when you make them and sharing what you are learning.
  • Invite your students to interview family members about a time they learned from a mistake, or tried something new that seemed hard.
  • Be an example. Share times when you stood up for what you believed in even if the people around you didn’t agree. Share times you’ve said, “no” or “yes” when others felt differently, or a time when you tried something new that made you uncomfortable. 
  • Brainstorm language for getting through challenging moments. Notice that sometimes when things get challenging our “inner voices” can be discouraging with words like, “You can’t do this,” or “This is too hard.” What kinds of “inner voices” have been helpful when they were learning new things like playing soccer, riding a bike or learning a new song or dance? Make a list of language like, “This is hard, but I’ll be able to do it,” or “I’ll figure it out with practice” for your students to practice in challenging moments.
  • Model noticing courage.You can write post it notes or quiet comments that start, “It took courage to _____ (ask for help, tell your friend to be more respectful, make a special effort to welcome our new student.) When you start noticing it, they will notice it with each other as well.
  • And… there more ideas on courage in the classroom here.