Columnist reflects on why mistakes are unacceptable in today’s society.

By Ayah Elsheikh, ’20.

Last year Arlingtonian was during third period, and every day I walked into the classroom and sat in the same spot next to my fellow staff writer. On one particular morning, she shuffled in with a look on her face that made me think there were a million thoughts running through her mind at once. She asked if I would mind reading an opinion piece that she gave to me saying, “It’s really bad though, I wrote it at like 3 a.m.”

I assured her that it was probably wonderful anyways, as I knew how talented a writer she was. Nonetheless, as I read the first sentence of her Google document, it read: “I hear the my music playing as the car turn on.” I was quick to point out the mistake to my peer, but rather than worrying about what she had written, she began to laugh. 

We both laughed until our mouths were dry and we could barely breathe. We laughed because we knew that we were in room 221; Arlingtonian is an environment in which screwing up is a necessary part of learning.

What about all the other courses in which there is no room for mistakes?

Students hesitate to raise their hands in class in fear of being judged by their teachers and peers for getting an answer wrong. They go above and beyond to make sure their grades stay pristine because missed questions on a test translate to lower grades. I listen to my friends say that they are scared to go to office hours because they don’t want their teachers to think that they don’t understand the content.

We are so incredibly terrified of mistakes because we have been conditioned to do so. Whenever I get a Powerschool notification that my grade has dropped, I feel terrible because society has taught me that a B or a C defines my worth. My friends don’t want to go to office hours because in their minds, educators will question students’ abilities if they’re not excelling in every subject.

In order to combat the effect that this toxic mindset has had on our school environment, we must eliminate the stigma that doing everything correctly is the only way to succeed. Schools can teach their students from a young age that mistakes have been the catalyst for some of the most important discoveries on Earth (Penicillin, x-rays, chocolate chip cookies etc.). 

Even this editorial was inspired by a mistake. It’s time we all realize that the holes in the gardens of our minds are where the most beautiful flowers grow.