Sometimes the best thing to make, is a mistake

My husband, Kolin, our good friend, Melinda and I went out snowshoeing on Sunday. We had planned to hike the Black Prince Cirque/Warspite Lake loop out in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park on the Spray Lakes Trail. We had the route mapped and were on our way. However, the trail was completely unmarked and when we came to the first fork in the trail, we went right, thinking that we were beginning the loop towards the lake. Now, we knew ahead of time that this was supposed to be a fairly flat trail, with only about a 200 meter elevation gain. So when the trail started heading upwards, we didn’t think anything of it, because we knew there would be a bit of an incline. And, to be honest, we were so immersed in the beautiful scenery around us, we didn’t really care.

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Up, up, up we went, with no levelling out to be seen. Eventually we made the comment that we weren’t expecting there to be so many steep parts, but we were sure it would be worth it once we got to the lake. After about an hour and a half, we made it to a clearing. Now the trail split off into about 3 different directions. None of them marked. Unable to see the lake, and unsure which direction to go to get there, we continued heading right. Eventually, we crossed paths with a back-country skier and his dog. We asked him if we were headed in the right direction to get to the lake and he replied, “Uh, no. The lake was way back at the beginning of the trail. No incline to get to it. This is a trail used a lot by skiers to get up into these glades to do some powder skiing through the trees.” We thanked him and he continued on his way. Ok – we took a wrong turn. But, here we stood – amongst powder covered tress, with the most incredible view before us.

After we spent some time admiring the view, we started making our descent. I was reflecting on the wrong turn that we had made, and it got me thinking that this is the exact same thing that we can sometimes do to our students. We have the path perfectly laid out for them, we’ve given them explicit directions to follow, and yet, somehow, along the way a mistake can be made that will take them completely off course. Most of the time, those mistakes are not valued. “You’re not doing what you’re supposed to” “You need to do this, instead”. But this experience made me think; sometimes, the BEST thing we (and our students) can make, is a mistake! If we wouldn’t have gotten off course of the path that we were supposed to follow, we would have never come across the stunning views that we did that day. The lake was at a lower elevation, below the tree line and buried at the base of a mountain. And even though it was still a beautiful sight (we did eventually make it to the lake!), the view could not be compared to what we saw when we went the wrong way.

Sometimes, a mistake can lead us to much better things – our students need to understand this. It’s not always about following perfectly laid out directions to come to a perfectly laid out conclusion. If our snowshoe path had been marked with directions, we never would have gone to the top. But it was because there was no clearly marked path, that we found our own. Our students should be allowed the same. Don’t clearly mark the path, let them find their own direction – and even if they make a mistake, they may discover that the result is better than what they were expecting in the first place. And that makes the view so much sweeter.