Living from the Inside Out...Mistakes Students Should Make

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 | CWK Producer

“As teenagers, we're developing, we're trying to figure out what our passions are, what we want out of life, and we should be able to do that.”

– Chandler DeWitt, Teen Author


No one likes making mistakes. But mistakes lead to learning and growth. Converge Magazine for educators recently published mistakes students should make... like getting too involved. Getting good grades is important... but it's not everything. And educators agree, emphasizing the need for students to live a balanced life – even in the college environment.

"We understand that life must be lived from the inside out. The only way you're going to be able to do that is to make sure you have a balanced educational program. Of course you emphasize academics. You want them to excel inside the classroom and outside of the classroom, as well," says Nido R. Qubein, President of High Point University.

According to the Converge article, another mistake that students should make is to pick the wrong major. It's OK – and actually natural for teens -- if you don't know exactly what you want to do.

"As teenagers, we're developing, we're trying to figure out what our passions are, what we want out of life, and we should be able to do that," says 19-year-old Chandler DeWitt, a college sophomore and teen author of Inside Out: Real Stories about the Inner Choices That Shape our Lives. "We should be able to experiment and reach out into areas we don't really know because what other time are you going to be able to do that?"

What other mistakes should kids make? Assume your teachers don't know everything. Ask lots of questions and talk too much – to your teachers and your classmates.

"I think the most important thing you learn [in high school] is who you are as a person and where you stand with your beliefs, and where you stand with yourself, and if you know yourself, and you know how to handle situations and deal with everything," says Kelsey, age 19.

Tips for Parents

Test scores. Team Sports. Technology. Today's teens face a competitive, complex, 24-7 existence. Perhaps it's no surprise that research from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia shows that kids exhibit four times greater the rate of depression and anxiety than the children of the 1930s.

Experts believe a cultural shift, with values placed by parents, school systems and communities on external outcomes and material success, may be the fuel for teen stress and anxiety. How can educators, parents and kids themselves redefine this race for reward?

One approach is to increase awareness and action toward leading a more balanced life. Daniel Willingham, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and author of "Why Don't Students Like School?" writes that when children start school, they believe they can succeed but failures undermine that belief. The failures are taken by the children to mean that they are not smart, that intelligence is somehow fixed and that it can't increase. In his book, Willingham writes that he wishes school classes were more like video games where kids lose, but don't feel they are losers because they accept that mistakes are part of the game. "They understand this is part of the learning process in the game. They are willing to try risky things in the game," he says. "They don't feel like a bad person if they lose."

In a recent issue of Converge Magazine, Julianne Capati and Spencer Taylor, students at Empire High School in Tucson, Arizona, wrote an article entitled "Five Mistakes Students and Teachers Should Make." They write "mistakes lead to learning and growing. Mistakes challenge you to learn from them in order to succeed. Mistakes represent success in disguise." Their suggested mistakes include:

  1. Pick the wrong major
    A student should explore any possibility that interests him, and future careers might just be around the corner. Remember, "If you don't know what to do, it's OK!"
  2. Get too involved
    Getting good grades and attending classes are all very important, but in the end, it is just a portion. Join clubs, help out with your community and strive to go above and beyond assignment guidelines. Learn about and participate in the things of interest ... that will not only make the student a more knowledgeable and skilled individual, but also create a larger interest in the student's education.
  3. Assume your teachers don't know everything
    Students may view their teachers as gods who know everything, but that really is not the case. Students should view teachers as individuals who can help them grasp and understand concepts in class. Students can research answers on their own and get their own opinions instead of having the teachers tell them the answers.
  4. Take a day off
    In this sense, students have power in their education, but it is also their responsibility to learn and be proactive in their education. So students can slack off here and there, but they should always keep in mind how that might affect their schoolwork. Take a day off to recharge, check out class notes online and relax. You may come back a refreshed student. Just don't do it too often!
  5. Talk too much
    Students can be under the impression that they must maintain some distance between themselves and their teachers. Intimidated, afraid, or whatever it might be, they do not confront their teacher when they have a problem about their class. Whatever the case, students cannot get help about a class if they remain distant from their teacher. Students need to be on friendly terms with their teachers in order to best get help in their classes. Go to office hours, stop in after school, or e-mail questions as they come. Not only will they get help, but they will also get the maximum potential of knowledge from the class.

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