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Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 10:20 AM

A friend of my calls me up and asks if I am interested in teaching a college course. With the little experience I have in industry (5 years in textiles and 6 years in plastics), I say to myself why not?

Now, I begin to teach and startout fine then suddenly I make a mistake examining a problem under BernoulliĀ“s law. I am hitting myself over the head about this and feel that this mistake will trully haunt me. What do you think should be done? Apologize? Forget about it? I believe that I can bring to the classroom something more than other teacherĀ“s only involved in academics, but this mistake can cut it short.

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#1

Re: Mistakes by teachers...

07/22/2010 10:27 AM

Hmm tough call.
The man who never made a mistake never made anything.
Maybe if your students are mature enough to listen, you can explain the process by which you discovered your mistake and how you corrected it.
Maths and Physics are only ways of trying to explain what's happening, if results aren't checked and viewed critically they can lead you astray.
It could be a valuable lesson in critical thought for the students....blimey you could even charge them extra.
And at the end say 'welcome to the real world'.
Del

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#2

Re: Mistakes by teachers...

07/22/2010 10:30 AM

Excellent advice Del - GA from me!

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#3

Re: Mistakes by teachers...

07/22/2010 10:37 AM

Tell your students the truth. You have no choice. Chances are they will, or have, figured out that you were wrong anyway.

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#4

Re: Mistakes by teachers...

07/22/2010 10:38 AM

Hard to judge as you do not descibe the context of the mistake.

If the mistake was that you incorrectly presented Bernouli's Law at the most basic and fundemental level in a lecture setting, you may need to correct this as not doing so may cause harm to the students.

Are the students required to follow a text book for this class? If so, did your presentation grossly contradict that shown in the text.

Did a student question your lecture content. If so, man up to the error.

Hard to say how bad the mistake was as you don't provide sufficient information.

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#5

Re: Mistakes by teachers...

07/22/2010 10:47 AM

If you find that it will truly haunt you, then honesty is the best policy. Going over it with the students again the right way will be most beneficial for the students and help you ease your mind. If students only rely on your lecture notes (those who don't read the textbook surely will), this mistake can result in a wrong problem if they do not find a mistake. They trust you as a teacher to show them the right way to do things.

There is more to be said about the person who admits their mistakes than a person who 'never' makes mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes and the person who states that they 'never' made a mistake is lying.

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#35
In reply to #5

Re: Mistakes by teachers...

07/26/2010 12:08 PM

"If you find that it will truly haunt you, then honesty is the best policy."

And otherwise??

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#6

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 11:25 AM

Making mistakes happens to the best of us. This is a good opportunity to teach about critical review, which should apply to everyone.

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#10
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Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 3:50 PM

Yeah, critical self review. Admit it, but don't make a big deal, most of them probably weren't paying attention anyway.

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#7

Re: Mistakes by teachers...

07/22/2010 11:31 AM

We all make mistakes. It is how we learn. You are there to teach. So teach. You have a good problem to give them. See if they can find where you made your error.

As far as the error goes can you do anything to change the fact that you made it? If not do not dwell or worry on it. As the distraction may cause others. Don't worry on anything you can not change. Correct it and go on. If telling your students is part of the correction do so.

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#8

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 12:51 PM

If you admit your mistake, explain the mistake, then explain the right way, anyone who holds this mistake over your head is probably either an enemy or a close friend.

The enemy is trying to cause trouble.

The friend is just trying to get back at you for something you did to them.

The students should most likely respect you more for your admission of the mistake than if you deny it and cause them problems in the future.

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#9

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 1:00 PM

I had an intructor that in lab we would be going through stress claculations for an hour and a half....he would be copying off from his "notebook" which he uses every year.

10- 15 minuties before the class ends he's not coming up with the answer in his notebook and is totally lost. and proclaims 1 minute before the class ends, forget what I just did.

(instead of complaining like the other students, he did teach me that it's up to me to learn.)

So, come clean and work it into the class project. Students will see that and learn that when they are in the work force, problems like that will be left up to them to solve. DO NOT paint over it.....any if anything, they will learn to trust you.

p911

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#18
In reply to #9

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 12:35 AM

Good Answer! Common sense with anecdotal evidence. I'm giving it to you however, despite your use of the word "claculations", whatever that is!

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#19
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Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 1:29 AM
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#23
In reply to #18

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 7:06 AM

"claculations" now that I can't pin on our educational system......that was me

thanks for grading on content though

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#11

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 5:03 PM

The teachers and others people of higher authority I have always respected and trusted the most where the ones who admitted they made a mistake even if it was minor and it took a while before they realized they even did it.

The ones who I have no respect for are those who will never admit they or their reference materials where wrong.

Even worse I have had to deal with those who try to hide their mistakes for what ever reason and often times at great negative cost to themselves and to others. Losers like that don't deserve to keep their jobs but do deserve every bit of misery anyone can put on them.

If you mention you made a mistake and explain how you came to the wrong conclusion I for one would hold you in higher respect for it. After all you showed me what was wrong and admitted you where part of it at the time.

Being you are asking a peer group for recommendations shows me you are likely a good person who will do the right thing any way.

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#14
In reply to #11

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 9:06 PM

I agree completely.

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#12

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 7:28 PM

I have a taught in vocational, junior college, and high school environments for over 10 years.. 1. mistakes happen. 2. teaching is the last stage of learning. 3. Apologize humbly, briefly, and only once 4. amend and redesign your lesson plan 5. You must go back and reteach the lesson (if the students have moved on, you must make make an effort to communicate your mistake to all who would you still have a means to contact. Provide the correct material.) 6. You won't make the same mistakes again. 7. Teaching is a mighty responsibility and its good to see your angst. It is a sign that you really care about your craft. 8. The students that really care about you will forgive you and make a hospitable learning environment for everyone. 9. Forgive yourself. 10. It will happen again. good luck and don't give up. You would be teaching the wrong lesson about persistance.

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#13

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 8:03 PM

I am an adjunct instructor and I find that: (1) I bring a lot of real-world experience into the classroom; and (2), because I am willing to try to answer almost any question, I sometimes make a mistake or else have to say I don't know. So, on the first day, I tell students about that, and offer them bonus points whenever they can catch me in a mistake or omission and then show constructively how I should have done the problem or made the measurement. Usually, I let them trade in their bonus points at the rate of 5 points = 1 pizza. They pay attention, feel like they're just as good as me (only not yet as experienced), and learn more trying to best me than they would have being passive.

Last semester, I got into one of those godawful artificial Kirchoff's Law problems, the kind that has six or eight batteries and nineteen loops. I spent about 20 minutes on it, finally owned up that I was still missing an equation and couldn't find it, and offered them pizza for the class if they could find my mistake. After about a minute of talking, they told me it was a dumb problem and they didn't want to do it either. So, we dropped it and moved on.

Be honest. Pencils still come with erasers on them for a good reason.

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#21
In reply to #13

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 2:38 AM

Great post...doncha hate those wretched probs...jeez, I'd immediately re-design!
Del
BTW where's my Pizza?

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#24
In reply to #21

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 7:39 AM

Yeah, I keep running into ones like that, but only in books. The real life problems, 4 stray capacitances somewhere in the cables, are never done. Instead, we put 3 batteries in backwards for some reason.

I actually worked with a circuit designer long ago who did stuff like that. He would use transistors as diodes, for example. When he left, a couple of us were assigned to straighten out his circuits. We eventually just threw it all away and redid it.

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#15

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/22/2010 11:59 PM

Making mistakes is never a problem, not admitting them and not learning from them is.

Engineering is especially about the PROCESS of problem solving.

We almost never have all the information, the data we have is inaccurate, there isn't enough time, there's not enough money, the people requesting the solution don't really know what they need and the real world physics is more complicated than our initial approximations.

Own up, show why you realised you were wrong and then move on. After all it won't be the last time it happens.

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#16

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 12:02 AM
  • Stand up in front of the class, and announce with great ceremony and import, that you have made an error in the process/equations.
  • pause....
  • Announce extra points/awards/cash for the student who correctly shows the error.
  • do not apologize.
  • move on to the next lesson, and discover that they pay much more attention to what you say and teach.

chris

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 12:20 AM

Would like to add some more points:

*Try never to speak, which you are not confident about. No body is master of all subjects. No harm in admiting that you do not know somethings. At the same time, give offer to students to share their knowledge on the subject, if they can.

(I know university professors of physics, who say in news paper article that "Bird do not get electrical shock while standing on high tension wires, because their feet has electrical insulation.)

*Try to teach the way of thinking, not only the mathematical steps for the solution.

*Share your industrial experience. Academic professors do not have that to share. Theory is one thing and practical situation is another.

GA chris

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#20

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 1:45 AM

Have to agree with Del the Cat. Honesty is the best policy. Own up and challenge the students to tell you where you went wrong - the better ones will already know.

In my time as a student there were at least three times where I had to correct a lecturer about some pretty basic stuff, so the good news for you is that you are not the first.

I'd be interested in a report on how the confession went.

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#22

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 5:02 AM

A problem is a dragon with a gift in its' mouth...,

Slay the dragon and the gift is yours...

The Chinese use a symbol for problem, consists of two symbols:Challenge and opportunity.

Slay the dragon,take the gift,meet the challenge and sieze the opportunity.

Do not build your reputation on perfection, but upon open, honest communication

with your students.

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#25

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 9:08 AM

Hello everybody:

"Be honest. Pencils still come with erasers on them for a good reason".

What a big truth!, TVP45, GA from me.

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#26

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 10:27 AM

This topic extends beyond the classroom and academics. It permeates our daily lives in our relationships with others and our businesses.

The baseline is that everyone makes mistakes.

The measure of a man, woman or a business is how a mistake is dealt with. Integrity is the measure of such.

Even though there's no 'engineering units' for integrity, there isn't a one of us who doesn't sense its magnitude in our business and personal interactions.

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#27
In reply to #26

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 10:36 AM

Yeah. We ought to follow Chrisg288's advice. I try to remember:

Admit it.

Fix it.

Don't repeat it.

Don't apologize.

Compensate anybody that suffered from it.

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#28

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 11:01 AM

I am an electrical engineer and spent my whole time in design department in electrical industry. After retirement I joint engineering college as professor. I had also made mistake while teaching them net work analysis. I realized my mistake same day. I tried to find where I had gone wrong and how could I have checked the same then and there itself. Next day First thing I did was to tell them that I was wrong in my yesterday's teaching. I repeated the whole portion again and pointing out the mistake I made. I also told that how I could have checked the mistake then and there itself. Students reaction was totally positive and they noted every thing. My acceptance of mistake definitely raised level of respect for me.

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#29

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 11:20 AM

Hi Number,

Don't apologize, just correct your error without telling that it was an error. You are supposed to tell good things to students and they will learn the correction over your original error.

To eliminate errors, learn what you have to say and say less than you want to say. Be simple! Yes, use simplicity to the point!

If you want to be perfect, forget to teach and do things. Perfection doesn't exist. It's a dream and a want or need for someone to be better than others, Gil.

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#30

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 12:25 PM

here is one I wrote in 1993... but still pertinent.

"Honesty"

To: Me
From: Me

Be honest with yourself about your warm, glowing sensuousness
and you will have Love.

Be honest with yourself about your roasting, flaming anger
and you will change from ruled into ruler.

Be honest with yourself about your putrid, revolting disgusts
and you will have purity.

Be honest with yourself about your peaking, encompassing divinity
and you will have humility.

Be honest with yourself about your heartbreaking eternal sorrow
and you will have compassion.

Be honest with yourself about the value of your words
and you will have audience.

Be honest with yourself about your cringing, hiding fear
and you will have courage.

Be honest with yourself about your hungering, desperate desire
and you will have balance.

Be honest with yourself about your piercing, blinding intelligence
and you will have purpose.

Be honest with yourself about your cold steel judgement,
and you will have sympathy.

Be honest with yourself about your vaulting, cartwheeling joy
and you will have power.

Be honest with yourself about your throbbing, pulsating lust
and you will have beauty.

Be honest with yourself about your craving, needing addiction
and you will have understanding.

Be honest with yourself about your frail, timid mortality
and you will live.

Most of all

Be!

CFG

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#31
In reply to #30

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 12:47 PM

Nice one Chris...
particularly
Be honest with yourself about your frail, timid mortality
and you will live.
I'm sure most of us are old enough to be aware of our own mortality and that of those we love, but yes you are right we must enjoy what we have and live.
Now, I must stop philosophising and make more bows!
Del

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#36
In reply to #30

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/26/2010 12:21 PM

May I suggest an added verse?

Be honest with yourself about your mind's incessant wandering
and you may find peace.

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#37
In reply to #36

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/26/2010 12:27 PM

good one....

I wrote this back in the 90's.. .before my mind really started to wander... otherwise I would have only got half done...

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#32

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 6:23 PM

UPDATE:

Yesterday I went in and in fact apologized for the mistake. Paused, took a deep breath and presented the information correctly and accurately. I think the class went better then expected. Turned out ok. Got to crunch some more numbers and get better mental notes written down. Thanks for the show of hands and the help guys. Really needed the pick me up.

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#33
In reply to #32

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/23/2010 7:01 PM

So, it wasn't so bad, was it? And didn't you feel good about yourself after the whole thing was over.

I consider this a good answer. Or update.

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#41
In reply to #32

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/30/2010 12:26 PM

Good choice. You provided the class the corrected technical information and you demonstrated honesty, humility, and integrity. Well done!

I might have apologized to the class that I made an error during that lecture and given them an "optional extra credit" assignment and a few days to investigate on their own what my error might have been. The next lecture would have been to review and correct my error as you did. The smarter and more motivated students (maybe all of them) would have tried for the extra credit and might have learned a lesson in self-reliance as well.

Best Wishes!

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#42
In reply to #32

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

08/01/2010 10:30 AM

For the people, who have given the advice to not apologize: We are not God as teachers. Arrogance is a mistake of pride although it leaves a teacher in position to be in control and maintain the class environment. Sometimes, some students may think less of you for apologizing. This is the cost of humility and it should be easily paid. If your personal integrity tells you to apologize, then do it. Disagree immensely with Chris although others support his position. I have taught students who have had doctorate's and master's degrees from the finest universities, I have taught hardcore prisoners, special needs, gang members, at-risk youth, small children, and just regular people. Sometimes humility is the most important lesson to teach even more then the subject your teaching. The title of Teacher, Instructor, Professor, & Educator carry a social responsibility greater than the importance of the subject your teaching. Apologize but only once to each class an only if needed. After that, the point is made. Good luck and good cheer!

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#43
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Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

08/01/2010 10:42 AM

I am one who advocated not apologizing. It's not arrogance.

When I do apologize, it's because I've done something morally wrong. Making a mistake in a derivation is not morally wrong. It's just a mistake. My experience has been that people who apologize rarely fix their mistakes. I fix mine.

Which would you rather have: a person who loudly proclaims "Sorry!" or a person who thoroughly fixes the mistake?

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#44
In reply to #43

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

08/01/2010 11:54 AM

I do understand your position. I just don't believe apologies are limited to moral questions. If I spill my drink on someone, I don't feel morally wrong at all. I still feel the need to apologize. Humility, once again. A social grace. Embrace.

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#45
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Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

08/01/2010 12:44 PM

I'm an engineer - I have no social graces, except remembering to wear matching white socks.

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#46
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Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

08/01/2010 1:52 PM

My statements were context specific, and assumed that no harm had been done, and even that no student had noticed. All requirements for humility in this situation are covered simply by announcing the error. Announcing a competition to provide the correct answer with a bit of humour, without apologizing, retains and builds respect. At that point, apologizing can have a detrimental effect, and cause disrespect. I recommended a neutral position. This is not because I don't understand humility, but that I understand that the respect of students is more important to their learning. If I apologize when I don't need to, I am serving myself, not my students, and it is detrimental to my role. Context is very important.

Chris

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#34

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/24/2010 10:34 AM

You may think that the beginning of your teaching career is the end of your student career, but it is really the beginning of your learning career.

You really don't know a subject until you have taught it.When teaching is combined with experience, a person enhances his personal pool of knowledge, and is more valuable to his students, because he knows the real world applications of the knowledge that he presents.

The purpose of teaching in my opinion, is not to present cut-and-dried-ready-to-eat solutions to problems , but to teach the student how to learn to find the solutions to unforseen problems that always occur in real life.

If you can teach them how to learn, you will have accomplished your purpose.

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#38

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/27/2010 9:11 AM

Hydraulics and theories like Bernoulli's equation, Mann ins etc are too tough for outsiders without a formal guru. The interpretations vary from person to person. It could be a next confusion affair like Einstein's Theory of relativity. Thermodynamics is again queue in the list. Better learn from experts, clear your self and proceed. Self study should always be consulted with relevant experts. Wrong assumptions can only mislead the students who could be innocent believers in your teaching. So avoid risks.

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#39

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/27/2010 9:55 AM

To teach, you need respect, to gain and hold respect you need credibility. Admit and correct if it is still possible.

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#40
In reply to #39

Re: Mistakes By Teachers...

07/27/2010 1:34 PM

"to gain and hold respect you need credibility"

or self-respect and integrity... which is the start of credibility.

ga.

Chris

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