Friday, April 13, 2012
On making mistakes
It seems to me that as an educator I fight the thought that I know, I am capable and I don't make a lot of mistakes. At least not those that I fess up to.
I can cover almost anything in my classroom. If I forgot to email a parent, misplaced a student's paper or forgot to do a recess duty as a 4th grade teacher - there were ways to cover. I could email the parent a day late and apologize profusely and things would be smoothed over. Searching through all the piles on my desk and maybe even in a student's desk usually unearthed the stray paper . And recess duty...well...hopefully no one got hurt!
All that changes when you move to a district position. Suddenly, you are much more visible. The mistakes don't just affect you - it ripples out to more and more layers. And - sometimes there just isn't a way to fix things.
So - this week I learned that again. I had to bow my head and admit that there were no excuses. There was only me and the error.
But - that isn't the end of it is it?
I can forgive anyone. Truly I can. And I almost always forget too!
But, I can't forgive or forget when I am the perpetrator. It just keeps coming back. I keep beating myself up. I keep picking at the moment.
And through that attitude I don't move on. I spin and spin and spin on the same spot and dig myself in deeper and deeper.
When I see this happen to someone else I am quick to point out that we all make mistakes and just get over it. When it's me, it doesn't matter what someone points out...it doesn't matter what they say... I am just stuck.
As an educator this is the very most paralyzing and counterproductive hole to fall in. We are all about second chances and learning from mistakes.
We have preached that it's time to put away the red pen
and focus on the next time.
We offer do overs
and try agains
and free passes.
But, somehow that escapes our own understanding.
And I would promise that is because we believe we are perfect. Deep down in the recesses of our own psyche we believe that we know it all...if someone would just ask. And when we bump up against the reality it's a hard thing. Sometimes an almost impossible thing!
Let me offer one more moment of perspective.
Last night a 23 year old man died in my community. He had been diagnosed with cancer the first time when he was a 4th grader in my classroom lots of years ago.
During the years in between he had been
healthy and sick many different times
and he had been funny and mad
and happy and sad
and wrong and right
and a son and a brother
and a friend and a student
and and and.
Today no one - not a single soul - remembers his mistakes.
Instead they remember Theo Yoder, the whole Theo.
That is my lesson, my take away - Life is big and this week is small.
We will miss you Theo!