What Was My Mistake?

Do you agree that a mistake is not wrong, and that making mistakes are a vital part of learning?

Then we must spend more time teaching students to recognize mistakes.

Far too many students are going through life making one of two assumptions: I probably got it right, or I probably got it wrong. We don’t teach them to probe, to problem solve, to look from another angle to confirm. They simply wait for an expert/adult/teacher to take out the red pen and tell them what mistake they made.

They need to learn to see their own mistakes.

This is especially important in music making when early error recognition can be the silver bullet for efficient music learning. If the baritones don’t recognize they’re making an error for a couple of dozen times through a piece in sectional, they will have a much harder time consistently finding the right note.

But it’s true for all work: if you can recognize your errors, you can move farther faster.

Here are the questions I want to ask so many times that my students and my children hear it in their heads every time they are doing something (whether it’s piano, programming, spelling, or soccer).

Did I make a mistake?
What was my mistake?
What did I learn from it?

Teach a child to routinely ask these questions, and they have a skill vital for future success, completely regardless of career path.