Confession #1: Somehow, Cup 'o Noodle has found it's way into my house. Confession #2: I told her to make it herself. She is very smart and capable, but...
The strangest thing was not the fact that the house smelled of burnt styrofoam and noodles, but it was my daughter's reaction. "Sorry, sorry...I'm so sorry! I can't believe I am so stupid!" What? What? This came out of the mouth of MY child? How could I have done such a disservice to my own daughter? I make it a point to talk about making mistakes, failing forward, growth mindset..how did this message get lost on my own child? Did it?
First I explained to her that she was NOT stupid and to never say that about herself, because it is very far from the truth. She just kept saying "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." It got to the point that I told her if she said it again, I would make her eat it (in jest, of course). Why did she feel the need to apologize? Where is this coming from? I am unsure, but I do know this about this particular child. She puts undue stress on herself. How shall I handle this? I know...story time!
I started by assuring her that everything was OK and that this was not called a "disaster" but it is called a "mistake". I asked "What is the purpose of mistakes?" With invisible fingers crossed, I hoped she had the answer I was looking for. She answered "To learn and not do it again." I said "You got it, to learn and make a change if needed." She continued to beat herself up, so I told her "Everyone has done something similar." She didn't believe me. So, I started by throwing her brother under the bus (I chose him first because she looks up to her big bro). When Trevor was about 10 years old, he wanted to toast his own bagel. He put it on a paper plate and proceeded to put the paper plate into the toaster oven. I told her how there was smoke everywhere, the same smell and even a little flame. She smiled. She said "But you have never done something like that." That was such a funny statement to hear, because as much as I love to cook, I am a disaster in the kitchen. So, I proceeded to be vulnerable with my child and tell her about the time, when I was pregnant with her brother, I microwaved a Wendy's cheeseburger (with the aluminum foil on). I told her about the small explosion and fire in the microwave. She loved that one. I gave her a few more anecdotes of how her mother has flubbed and that it's OK.
Here is the deal. Sometimes, unbeknownst to us, people, look up to us. It could be our students, our colleagues, our own kids...anyone. They think, for whatever reason, that we have never been in their shoes, when quite the contrary. This is why I feel so strongly about being vulnerable and honest about how we have all fallen. Because everyone has. I have found that people feel very comforted knowing that they are not alone, in making mistakes or otherwise.
A friend of mine had a child who was struggling with a particular subject in school and feeling really down about it. My friend decided to share some stories with the child, about similar struggles from childhood. The child had the same reaction as my daughter. It is comforting to know that others, especially parents/teachers, have been where they are. I applauded this friend for being vulnerable and showing that it is OK to struggle and keep moving forward.
Another friend of mine, that I used to teach with, switched schools. She had planned to do an art lesson with her new crop of students. She called me afterwards because she came across a strange phenomena. The students were paralyzed with fear. Literally. They wouldn't make a mark on their papers. I think they were supposed to be using paint. They said things such as "What if I do it wrong?". "What if I get dirty?" "What if I make something that isn't what you wanted?".
That was about 6 years ago and anytime I go visit that classroom, it is very obvious that those students embrace risks and are not afraid of making mistakes. It is a fantastic place to visit!
In my current position, I often train other adults in various things. I NEVER claim to be an expert and I don't think I have made it through one such training without making at least one mistake. But when I do, I call myself out on it. I just naturally do it, because I would do that in the classroom. Show students that everyone makes mistakes and it's OK and how to use it as a learning experience. Here is what surprised me. My adult learners have said on quite a few occasions: "Oh I am so glad to see that you have the same struggles as me!". My answer "Of course I do, we are the same!"
So, lesson learned:
1) You can find a teachable moment in the most interesting situations.
2) Model the behavior you want others to emulate.
3) Acknowledge, even celebrate mistakes.
4) Always be willing to laugh at yourself.
5) Share your stories if it can help someone else.
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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