Everyone makes Oopsy Doodles and that’s one of the wonderful things that make us all human beings. Parents make Oopsy Doodles. Teachers make Oopsy Doodles. Even our president makes Oopsy Doodles; and you make Oopsy Doodles too. So the next time someone tells you that you have made a mistake or an error, that you are incorrect or they call you careless, tell them about Oopsy Doodles. Tell them that you and many others are changing the world. That you are helping to erase negative labels and replacing them with the beauty of Oopsy Doodles. Help them to see how positive Oopsy Doodles can be.
The reason why I created this post and I encourage you to spread the word about Oopsy Doodles is because so many students are traumatized by negative labels and wording in education. Students are continually told what is wrong with their work, but rarely told what is right. Many are afraid to participate in their classes, because they don’t want to “look stupid.” They are disinclined to make mistakes and combat the impatient smirks, belittling snickers, and disgruntled rolling eyes. In addition, time and time again, students have shown me assignments that are covered in negative comments and large red “Xs.” A couple years ago, one student came to a session feeling so dejected, it took me an hour to rebuild his confidence. Even though he got an 87 on an assignment, the paper was filled with big red “Xs” and in giant letters across the page his teacher wrote, “LOTS OF CARLESS ERRORS!” This student had executive functioning as well as attentional weaknesses, and the last word that described him was careless. Still it took me an hour to pull him out of a deeply defeated and helpless mindset. It wasn’t until the end of the session that I pointed out to him that that everyone makes oopses. In fact, the teacher had misspelt careless. Another incident was a six grade student that was doing poorly in school. She had a teacher that made all the students in her class redo wrong answers on assignments and tests and categorize these mistakes as concepts errors (never understood the content) and detail errors (careless mistakes). She hated completing these assignments and because of them, she hated school. It wasn’t until I changed the wording that she could begin to follow through with the assignment. Instead of a content error we called them a “What?,” and we replaced detail errors with an “oops.”
An article by Harvard Business Review reported that the ideal praise to criticism ratio is six to one for the highest performing teams, and this study was done on adults! But is criticism even appropriate in education? Couldn’t we just change our focus to the positive and even praise those that help us to understand areas of confusion?
Over the years, I have learned to mindfully eradicate negative words. For example, I never say “no.” Instead, I declare, “That was close” or “Give it another try.” If you too can do this, it will change the energy of your classroom and will create a safe place for students to participate and learn. If you would like to learn more about shifting negative labels to words of encouragement come read my blogpost entitled Embracing Positive Learning Environments.
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