Mistakes Happen

What do you do when you make a mistake? Do you even realize it? And then what? Ignore it? Point out another’s mistake? Blame someone? Laugh? Change the subject?

i have started at least three blogs since I last wrote. I started them and then let them just fade away in the “draft” pile, to be deleted eventually. But not this one, I say. Instead I’ll make this dilemma, not wanting to make mistakes, become the basis of this post.

Those questions…so much time has gone into sitting with them. yes and no to all of them. Why are we so afraid to make mistakes? Does it make us wrong? Or bad?

Have  you ever made a mistake? he asks.

I laugh and give a flippant answer. Yeah, once about twenty-five years ago.

A week later he was dead. He had been trying to talk to me.  It was months before I realized it. Months before I remembered how I answered him. I want a do over.

My words hurt others, as I have been hurt by others’ words. Did this awareness come from all my journaling, watching myself bitch and whine and blame and rant on paper? And when my dear child needed me to hear his words, and me to offer understanding ones, I failed.

I become hyper vigilant and realize just how abusive this habit of mine can be.

But others do it, I reason

Sure they do. It’s a human trait. You are not perfect Laura, but you can pay attention, be mindful.

Do I take my teacher job too seriously? Do I cross the line? I could change the meaning of mistakes. Call them opportunities to learn. Would that take some of negative connotation away? Why does everything need to be either right or wrong?  And why do I interpret mistakes as failures? As something I should have known.

This weekend I spent grading literature review papers for the education foundations course I teach. A gathering of research as they prepare to write a philosophy of education. Select five sources, cite them using APA standards, summarize the article, tell how it relates to you, and how you could apply it in the classroom.

Argh. The first thing I do is replace my red pen with a peacock blue one. Where do I start with these papers? So many summaries consisted of lifting a couple sentences from the article, in language I’ve never heard them use. Then they launch into opinions unrelated to the article about the way they think their classrooms should be. Do they not know how to do this? Argh again.

I write as much individual feedback as I can, critiquing rather than criticizing, when what I really want to do is …

Calm down, Laura.

Tomorrow I will give the papers back and  we will work with partners and  as a whole group summarizing another research article i have copied. Maybe we just need more practice.

A little shift in perspective. I feel better about this learning opportunity. And my response to it.

Mistakes happen.

I can forgive myself better now. For not knowing. For falling back into old reactive habits, for feeling defensive. And the really cool thing is I’m learning I can forgive others for the very same things.

Rereading this post after I publish it, I see mistakes. Ah well, maybe I just need more practice.

Writing topic: How do you handle mistakes?