Ask Amma

Learning from Failure

In What on 19 March 2014 at 6:22 am

An Amma recently told me, by way of commenting on an AskAmma post that she felt like a “failure” because she had not done certain things the way not she would have liked to.

This got me thinking about the role of failure.

First, let me quote an astute AskAmma contributor, 8 year old Sahith, who told his mother, when he was 8 years old,

Amma, you know what would be a good exercise for you?
For five hours, you let me make as many mistakes as I want
and you sit and just watch without saying anything.

From “Mistakes

Second let me quote a science textbook I recently got. Unlike the usual textbooks that detail exactly what the teacher and students are supposed to do and learn, it provides broad guidelines and encourages open-ended questioning as a means to discovery.  The author notes:

If teaching in this manner sounds daunting, bear in mind that teaching is not brain surgery.  The worst that can happen is that you and your kids end up in a muddle.  Kids actually enjoy the middle and sorting it out is a genuine learning experience. …  Furthermore, discovering an error, minor or major, straightening it out, and getting it right can be the aspect of learning that brings the greatest joy and satisfaction.

– Bernard J. Nebel, Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, Vol III.

This is to say that we aren’t looking for that perfect place where we make no mistakes because mistakes are our greatest teachers.  Philosophically then you might even ask, is there such a thing as a mistake?  Is not every step a step in the journey?  Do we really prefer the shortest path?  Not even particles do that!

Let me also quote a reader of The Continuum Concept who wrote to author Jean Liedloff,

“I think your book was one of the cruellest things I’ve ever read. I am not suggesting that you should not have written it. I am not even saying that I wish I had not read it. It’s simply that it impressed me profoundly, hurt me deeply, and intrigued me greatly. I do not want to face the possible truth of your theory and am trying my best to avoid facing it … “

from The Continuum Concept, accessed online

Liedloff reminds the mother that she cannot go back in time and implement an approach that may no longer be age-appropriate, but she can draw from the principles behind it and create an atmosphere that is true to those values.  And in the process, model the practice of learning from one’s mistakes.

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