Let yourself look stupid to learn
1 min read

Let yourself look stupid to learn

This article from Dan Luu interested me because I notice something with my students.

Sometimes I have students who struggle because they don't get the full mark on their assignments right from the beginning. They don't seem to allow themselves the opportunity to learn.

I believe this is often a problem inherent to the education system, but also one that I play a role in, as well.

When I first started out teaching, I worked with people who were not graded and found they'd never do the work. I decided to upgrade my education so that I could teach at a university and use grades to leverage students to do the work.

Unfortunately, I now worry that this system may not allow students to practice and improve before it affects their grades. Perhaps what I need to implement is a "training wheels" period where mistakes are allowed before it affects their grade.

I'm sure there are other ways to approach this problem, something which I'll consider for the future.


Unfortunately, worrying about looking stupid is a problem I also personally encountered.

When I began writing long ago, people pointed out my grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. I struggled with it for a year before completely shutting down.

This problem turned into a complete writer's block that lasted for nearly fifteen years.

When we started working with our editor, it was still a problem I struggled with.

When she returned our manuscript filled with red, I wanted to argue every change. Angie and I sat down with her and planned on arguing every correction.

It only took us a few hours to burn out and realize that she wasn't working against us, but working with us to help our reader. It also meant we had to abandon our egos.


That's the reason looking stupid is so hard: it threatens our precious ego. We have to push past it and open ourselves up to fail.

Failure shows our weaknesses and pushes us into new areas to test out, try, and learn.