The Value of Mistakes; The Curse of Tippex

So, here I am.

It’s Saturday morning. It’s Bloomsday. Radio 4 is plugged into my ears. My back is turned on the TV which has been glued to CBBC. Two stories lie before me in need of marking.

One is undeniably beautiful in its presentation. Penmanship is exquisite. Words, sentences and paragraphs are precisely and clearly spaced.

The other story is – lets face it – scruffy. It looks like something produced by a Bash Street Kid. Crossings out. Letters formed irregularly. Ink spots and blotches that make me think of a Rorschach test (butterflies on a still pond in a summer’s day; opening petals on a flower … Never ever say anything else!)

Now, both kids made mistakes and corrected themselves.

Child A has neatly tippexed out her errors – extraordinarily neatly! My attempts to use tippex always led to a scruffy scratchy lump of slob in the page! – I gather tippex these days (other brands are available) includes strips and pens and magic brushes…

Child B has scrawled through her errors.

But I can still see the first attempt beneath the scrawl. I can see evidence of drafting, of consciously trying to select appropriate vocabulary for effect, of worrying about spelling. For example, if auto-correct will forgive me, she wrote

fumeing fuming seething seathing furius so angry

I gave her additional marks.

Neat girl, for all I know, could have tippexed out something utterly irrelevant, wrong, a doodle, an offensive doodle… I do seriously doubt it but unless I can SEE I don’t KNOW!

SO, children of today, I plead with you! Abandon your obsession with neatness; reject the tippex; take up arms against the Primary School culture of perfection. You are not perfect; we are not perfect. Our mistakes show our thoughts and our thoughts are valuable!


2 thoughts on “The Value of Mistakes; The Curse of Tippex

  1. Oh yes! I could start to tell you just why I agree with this with every fibre of my being, but this is your blog, not mine and I should not start stamping up and down on my favourite soapbox here.


    1. Feel free to rant! Isn’t that what t’internet’s for?!

      I so worry that our Primary Curriculum and Literacy Hour and National Targets favour presentation and technical accuracy over creative interesting playful – and possibly unsuccessful – but fun writing.


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