Scar Tissue #SOL2021

I saw this really interesting post on Twitter by Mike Johnston. He uses this technique for reflecting on learning from mistakes. He called it the “scar tissue learning scoreboard”.

After a test/project we practice “scar tissue learning” which means that we search for mistakes & compete to see how much learning we can add by fixing & justifying the mistakes made right. I lost. We only found 4 mistakes that I made in correction that I could learn from. Best.

Mike, the teacher, positions himself in competition with the students to see how many mistakes he learned from an activity or test with the hope that they find more of their own. My imagination exploded with the sheer simplicity yet depth and potentiality of this task.

The teacher joins the student in the learning as one capable of mistakes, but this isn’t the only part of this that ignited me.

Like many of the “metaphors we live by“, I wonder if this one holds the potential to reframe student beliefs in a broader sense beyond the classroom. Like wounds as necessary for growth, as meaningful.

In this short Ted Talk, Robert Bohat extrapolates from results of cancer patients and piano players asking “could we use metaphor to help students at school?”

He goes on to explore the “the divine transfer metaphor” and wonders if a math teacher were to shift the language of questions from “who needs help?” to “who needs an inspiration?”

Last week, I wrote these words during our scheduled writing time in class:

Moving through the day, dropping thoughts

losing focus, missing



I took a very hard fall about a month ago. While running after school, I tripped over what I now know is a tree root, brown like the earth it emerged from. Falling forward on the bike path which traversed the river, I had to crunch my body into a ball to avoid hitting the park bench face first. I was winded. And in shock when a woman who witnessed this frantically searched her purse for a band aid. She could see the entire knee gaping out of the fresh tear in my winter running pants and I needed her to leave. Through strained tears, I reassured her that I was fine.

I knew in that moment that the fall was not just physical. And that giving in to the feeling was dangerous; unleashing any quantum of repressed pain might entirely undo me.

So I analysed instead: How does the knee work now? I can run. How’s the hands? Pull out the shards of dirt and gravel. Oh look! That rip means I really do need new running pants, Yay! But that fall woke me up to metaphorical running from rather than running to.

Returning to the place where this intersects with my students reminds me that I can use metaphor and narrative to shape experiences. Robert Bohat points out that these metaphors can empower students in their learning. We need to work with them to figure out individually, “which ones are the most empowering metaphors?”

I find my metaphors through introspection, constantly working through thinking and writing to reframe the narrative of each experience. There is no “plug and play” learning that will guide me or my students through this. There is only scar tissue and the stories I tell myself about the wounds.

One thought on “Scar Tissue #SOL2021

  1. I am reeling with possibilities after reading your post! I love the idea of “scar tissue learning” and am wondering what it would look like to actually keep count! Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

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