Every semester I get a slew of students who tell me, after making a mistake in my class, that they take responsibility / ownership of their mistake.  Most then ask me, what “we” can do about it.


I didn’t miss the deadline.  I didn’t do poorly on the quiz.  I didn’t miss my appointment, or fail to make one.  But none of that matters.  Truth is “we” CAN’T do anything about it.

See, taking responsibility for something is more than just admitting you messed up.  That’s like saying sorry to your little brother for hitting him with your Tonka truck even though you were swinging it wildly above his head.  You aren’t sorry for hitting him.  You’re sorry you got caught.  You aren’t taking responsibility, you’re admitting you messed up.

Taking ownership means that you accept the consequences of your action (or inaction) and do something different to not make that mistake again.  It means you learn from your mistake.  You may get a bad grade.  You may fail.  You might not graduate.  But the next time you have to keep an appointment or meet a deadline, you’ll do so with a bit more focus.

I’m not the 13th Doctor.  I don’t own a TARDIS.  I can’t travel through space and time.  So I can’t, and won’t, undo your mistake.  But I CAN talk about your mistake and help you come up with ways to not have it happen again.  You have to be the one to do something about it so it won’t happen again..

And then I’m not taking responsibility for your mistake, you are!