Mistakes are for learning?

a funny picture of a confused baby depicting students' facial expressions when they were told that you "can't put toothpaste back in the tube".
My students when I told them it was impossible to put toothpaste back in a toothpaste tube.

I’m not awesome at discussing my failures, but sometimes you just have to go for it – especially if it may help someone else prep better.

This year my kick off lesson with 4th grade was introducing them to our theme of “think before you speak”. I thought “I know, I’ll use that fun toothpaste visual to show them how we can’t take our words back!”. I went to Target, bought five trial sized toothpastes, and got everything ready to go. Went into two different rooms, giddy with excitement about my fantastic hook/opener, and then figuratively fell flat on my face.

For those of you unfamiliar with this, here’s one of one million write ups of it. Since I needed to do this without about 125 students in 5 homerooms, I decided to have a volunteer come to the front of the room and demonstrate. When they couldn’t get the toothpaste back in, I’d have one or two more come up and try.

The problem? There were always 3-6 kiddos who still didn’t believe me that you couldn’t get it back in. These guys are dreamers and schemers and truly believe they are capable of anything! Well, anything I label a “challenge” anyways 😉 I didn’t have time to let every kid try on the one tube, and I didn’t have the budget for every kiddo to have their own. Without the students grasping the crux of the visual, the metaphor with our words was useless.

Ah, well, you know what they say about best laid plans. The rest of the lesson was also less than a homerun and took me doing a different version with all five homerooms before I hit the sweet spot – but that’s a story for another post.

One Response

  1. Thank you for your story and honesty. I often feel like I am the only counselor who has these moments when a lesson does not go as plan. Sometimes the lesson on the subject on Monday does not look anything like the lesson on the same subject on Friday. I evaluate and try something different when things do not go as planned. I love your ideas and I appreciate your sharing! I will definitely be using the Llama Drama activities. Just had some drama in third grade yesterday!

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Hello, I’m Sara!

With 10 years of experience in
elementary school counseling,
I get to serve in a different way now
– by helping fellow counselors and

I value quality over quantity,
effective practices and resources,
and meeting the unique needs of all
our diverse learners.


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