Mistakes are lessons you need to learn.
Those were the first words I wrote on the chalkboard in my very first classroom. I wrote them big and kept them up all year long. A philosophy of sorts. A reminder and touchstone in times of struggle and frustration. Feelings that often arise in the process of learning. Hallmarks of thinking, learning, growing.
At the time I wrote these words I believed I wrote them for my students. And, on the most basic level I did. I wanted my students to love learning and growing. Of course I wanted them to absorb what was in the textbooks and do well in class, get good grades, etc. But, more importantly I wanted to plant seeds of courage and excitement in them. A type of fearlessness. A perspective and an attitude that would carry them through the messiness of the learning process they would do in the classroom and their lives in general.
And, so the year went on. They made mistakes. I'd say, "That's good." and sometimes even "That's so great! You just showed me how I can help you and your classmates even better." We'd celebrate and laugh, keeping a lighthearted outlook toward whatever we were learning. I'd often say "Thank you for making that mistake (insert student's name here)." Sometimes I'd ask my student, "Can I use this to show the class something?" Almost always the student would respond yes and I'd create an impromptu mini lesson that everyone could benefit from. This happened so frequently the kids occasionally asked who helped me figure that out. They were beginning to sense the difference between the regular lessons and the more organic ones. Sometimes I would tell them who it was, sometimes I wouldn't. Most times I'd just say, "One of your classmates helped me see this (insert task here) in this way. That person can stand up or give you a wave right now if they want you to know who they are". Whenever a child revealed that they were 'the helper' I'd prompt the class to wave back and say thank you for helping us. This would sometimes spark cheers and applause for their classmate. I'd always thank that student again myself for their bravery and willingness to share and for just being his/her awesome self. Always, there were smiles.
As I mentioned above, I thought I wrote those words for my students. In retrospect, I really wrote them for myself. It was one of the most powerful lessons I had learned on my own journey of formal education and one I wanted to share. Learning had never been easy for me. I struggled for years. I wished I had I learned to look at mistakes as gateways to learning instead of roadblocks. Because when I did that's when I worked harder, dreamed bigger and accomplished more than I or anyone that knew me thought I was capable of. When I shared & practiced this outlook with my students I saw them doing the same. Believing in themselves and connecting with one another in surprising and beautiful ways.
So what's the take away from all of this?
Let yourself learn - in life, in school, in work, in love. Give yourself the gift of time and a chance. Let yourself try and practice instant forgiveness for yourself when you feel you've messed up. Don't waste time or energy in comparison or judgement. Life and learning is a messy process. Wherever you are is exactly where you need to be.
Powerful things happen when we embrace our flaws instead of running away from them. We can turn brokeness in to brightness and failure into fuel, mistake makers into helpers. We can give each other second chances. We can keep trying and encouraging one another. We can thank each other for having unique perspectives and outlooks and stretching our minds. We can learn from and celebrate our differences and we can all be better because of it.
I say 'we' because I make mistakes too. We all do. And we all have a choice with what we do with those mistakes. My students knew that my first year of teaching. I didn't hide my imperfections from them. I couldn't. I had too many. I was a new teacher and had a lot to learn. Trying to be perfect would be impossible and exhausting so I released myself and them of that even before the school year began. We just focused on giving our best, day by day, moment to moment. This freed me up to give the best of myself and my students to bring the best of themselves out in each other too. It was truly magical.
We owe it to ourselves and others to give our best in all we do without worry for the outcome.
There's a yoga/Sanskrit word for this: Aparigraha. It's one of the five Yamas. :)
Learn more about it here if you're curious: https://www.ekhartyoga.com/blog/aparigraha-practicing-non-attachment
Now, I'd love to hear from you!
- What is one of the best lessons you've learned to help you continue growing, learning and exploring your curiosities fearlessly?
Let me know! Share it and this post with others. We all can use a lift from time to time. And who knows, it just might be the words someone needs to hear today!
Here’s to enjoying your life & ALL GOOD THINGS my friends!
Thank you so much for reading and have a magical week!