Here we go Educators! Please enjoy entry #3 from Mr. Bowlin, a Top 20 Teacher, from Saint Mark’s School in St. Paul, MN. This is another letter he sent home to the parents of his 4th-grade students. His goal is to engage parents on the home front in hopes of continuing the Social-Emotional Learning that goes on in his classroom through the use of Top 20 Training concepts and strategies.

Mr. Bowlin utilizes the Top 20 Training K-6 Interactive Curriculum in his classroom. One of the most exciting things to watch and learn from is how Mr. Bowlin makes the curriculum his own. Like all great teachers, he finds the best practices based on the needs of his students and finds the best way to reach his students!

Keep up the great work Mr. Bowlin!

Top 20: Mistakes and Learning

Our society often encourages us to avoid mistakes and fear failure, but we are learning the opposite this month as we kicked off our new Top 20 unit on Mistakes. As unorthodox as it sounds, we are starting to celebrate making mistakes because it means we are learning. Confusion is a natural and necessary part of all learning, and when we respond to it with an attitude of persistence and perseverance we are destined to reach our potential as a learner. This can be a really challenging concept for a 4th grader to understand, but it is a key contributor to living out a growth mindset.

“If at first you don’t succeed, you are normal” was the catalyst for our conversation on the value of learning from mistakes. After a short quiz that had two simple problems and two rather challenging problems, we used some neurological research to support the idea that our brains grow when we make mistakes. When we answer a simple question correctly, the activity in our brain is limited. However, when we find ourselves confused working through a challenging problem, synapses in our brains fire and attempt to share information from multiple parts of the brain.

Our biggest challenge in the midst of a mistake is our response to it. We looked at some Bottom 80 responses, such as “I’m not smart enough” or “This is too hard,” as negative responses that would give us a Below the Line experience. Contrary to those responses, a Top 20 would view mistakes as great opportunities to learn something and develop new skills.   When we choose to view mistakes as positive opportunities to grow as a learner, our thinking is clearly working in our best interest.

Next we looked at some “Famous Failures” (Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Dr. Seuss, etc.) and drew the conclusion that these people had Top 20 responses to mistakes. They didn’t allow the challenge, setback, or adversity to define them, but rather they learned from their mistakes or shortcomings and found ways to persevere. When we make mistakes, we need to change our mindset to the idea that each setback is a platform for us to become a better version of ourselves.

Mr. Bowlin

Saint Mark’s School (

St. Paul, MN