Handling a mistake

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by MrsRed, Aug 31, 2014.

  1. MrsRed

    MrsRed Rookie

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    Aug 31, 2014

    I am teaching a Pre-Calculus course - I've taught pre-calc before, but at a different school, and the scope is different due to what they've learned in previous years. I have a background in math, and my content-knowledge is very strong, so I often don't use any reference materials for myself when creating my lessons. It has never been a problem, until now. I taught something incorrectly (we are graphing trig functions, and for secant and cosecant, I thought they would just take the reciprocal of all of the y-values for either cosine or sine). I just didn't take enough time to clearly think it through and was trying to quickly get my lesson done. My mistake.

    How do I handle it with the students? When they checked their homework from Thursday night it didn't match up with the answers in the back of the book, and so they told me on Friday. I told them I would give it some thought and see what is going on.

    Obviously I need to reteach it. But I'm worried about losing my credibility with them. This is my first year at this school, so I don't even have a solid reputation to bank on. They need to trust my content knowledge, but these students are at a very high level and I'm worried that I'll lose all of their respect and that they'll never take me seriously again.
     
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  3. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    Aug 31, 2014

    Just admit your mistake. Kids respect that; they won't respect a coverup. Spin it as a positive--kids also need to feel that mistakes are ok and are part of the learning process.
     
  4. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    I agree. Do it as soon as possible. Tell them there was an error in your teaching notes and you will need to reteach the lesson. Just start over.
     
  5. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    Aug 31, 2014

    Ditto with others. It's not a big deal. I once taught the kids that Louis Armstrong landed first on the moon. :p NO idea what I was smoking that day. I didn't realize what I'd done until the next period. I just fixed it the last day and told a couple self-deprecating- the kids laughed and we moved on.
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I agree with everyone else. Own it, correct it, and move on. Mistakes happen. Your response to a mistake is what matters.
     
  7. olivecoffee

    olivecoffee Companion

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    Aug 31, 2014

    I'm student teaching and took over spelling last week. After I gave the pre-test, the kids self-corrected while I spelled the words on the board. I spelled one word on the board wrong and said it wrong, too. One of the kids said, "Huh? What???" and I said, "Oh. This just goes to show that teachers make mistakes, too!" We laughed and then moved on.
     
  8. MrsRed

    MrsRed Rookie

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    Yeah, I plan on talking about it first thing Monday morning. I would have done it on Friday, but I needed to think through the concept myself first. Should I tell them why I made the mistake - in other words, should I explain my reasoning so they can see where I made my mistake? I feel like I should so that they understand why the method that I first taught them is wrong. Should I also talk about using this as a learning experience for taking your time when doing work, so that you don't make mistakes simply by rushing through things?

    Ugh. I'm so embarrassed. I know it'll be okay, but I'm just so annoyed at myself. I've made small mistakes before, but nothing where I just completely taught them incorrectly.
     
  9. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Aug 31, 2014

    On Thursday I was hurredly tutoring 2 students, in a rush to finish one last problem before the bell. It was a word problem. We got to the end and when we plugged in to check the work I realized my work was incorrect because the answer didn't check. Ugh. I had no choice but to tell the students we would have to rework the problem after the break. It is a bit embarrassing, but it is also a chance to teach that making mistakes is part of the learning process.

    What I will do is go through the problem with them and have the students closely analyze each step, letting them find my error.
     
  10. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    It'll definitely be okay. Students realize that you are human too and you make mistakes. I don't make mistakes too often, but I do make them every now and then, and it's a simple, "Ah, hey guys. That thing I told you the other day. It was completely wrong, ignore it. This is what's really up..."

    You have older kids and probably higher level students as well so they're usually a bit more flexible when it comes to messing up as a teacher.
     
  11. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Yeah, don't be embarrassed. Tell them you want to reteach the topic because you realize that it didn't come across the right way and you want to teach it another way. Then forget about it.
     
  12. Mr.history

    Mr.history Cohort

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    Aug 31, 2014

    Everyone makes mistakes. Usually I catch them before the students do and I just correct them as I go. The only way this will be a big deal is if you make it one in front of the students.
     
  13. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    I got to throw out my entire lesson on Friday due to multiple mistakes in planning and execution. After 30 minutes of it failing miserably I stopped it, admitted to the kids I blew it and apologized. The world didn't end.

    In fact, a couple even tried to support me saying things like "we were just starting to get it!" They really weren't and it was all on me. I think admitting mistakes is powerful to students. They are often so afraid of failing that they can't or won't admit their own. When we do it we can show it is perfectly normal - even if it is uncomfortable.
     
  14. MsDouglas

    MsDouglas Rookie

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    Sep 6, 2014

    We all make mistakes. I taught Pre-calculus last semester and had a similar experience. I didn't realize my mistake until another teacher told me. I admitted this to the students and explained that we were going to relearn the lesson together. I explained that teachers have to refresh themselves on the material before teaching it. It's often been years since we learned the material. They completing understood. It also made them feel better that I made mistakes too. When I taught polar coordinates at the end of the semester I told them before we started that we were learning the concept together. They worked harder to try to teach me how to do the problems.
     
  15. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Admitting mistakes, on occasion, is good for students to witness, IF the teacher is honest about the situation and doesn't try to weasel out of it. If you are going for the cover-up, where you only admit to the error if actually caught is stressful and morally wrong. My mom always taught me that honesty is the best policy, even if it stings in the short term.
     
  16. MrsRed

    MrsRed Rookie

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    Thanks everyone. We talked about it first thing on Monday. I explained where I went wrong in my thinking, so that they could see why the way I originally taught it was incorrect, and then I retaught it correctly. As you all said, they seemed to take it well.
     
  17. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Sep 7, 2014

    Excellent work on that. It's a humbling experience, but you handled it like the pro you are.
     

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