My favorite (classroom) mistake

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The student approached me after class. "Profe," he said. "Creo que hay un error en la hoja." He pointed to my instructions, which clearly stated that students had to conjugate the verbs to complete the sentences. "Es conjuga, no conjuega." 

I am ashamed to admit that I didn't believe him at first. But he was by far the most talented student I'd ever taught, and so I humored him. "Vamos a chequearlo en WordReference," I said. And I was thunderstruck to find that he was right.


I've made many--many--mistakes in my career, which began in 2003. The one I'm sharing today happened in 2010, well past the point (I thought) of stupid mistakes like making Bingo cards that were all the same, or speaking too much English.

In the moment, I felt utterly ridiculous. How could I have spent seven years saying CONJUEGA instead of CONJUGA? Never mind seven years of teaching, what about the twenty preceding years of study, travel and life abroad? How had I been making the same dumb mistake literally thousands of times? I thought about all of those worksheets that I'd have to correct. Well, I had no patience for that kind of mindless work.

I'd like to say that I had an epiphany. That the very next day I threw out all of my verb conjugation charts and cloze activities and began my hero's journey towards a performance-based, discovery learning-friendly classroom from which legions of content students left, proficient and interculturally competent.



No, the change that my teaching underwent as a result of this mistake was gradual. I think my thought process went something like this:

"I can't believe I have been making that mistake for so long."
"It's on every worksheet!"
"I don't have time to change all of those worksheets."
"I'm definitely not making that mistake again. But now I feel weird writing the instructions conjuga el verbo."
"Wait... Am I really that teacher that is giving out so many verb conjugation worksheets? I can do better than that..."

Incidentally, I joined Twitter and began this blog not long afterwards.

I have to give a lot of credit to my student (who is now a Spanish teacher! yesssss!). Not only was he brave enough to call me out, he did it in the most non-threatening way possible--in Spanish, no less--and probably without even realizing it, helped me become a better teacher.

What's your favorite mistake?

(Shout-out to @gretafromtexas, who inspired this post.)


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