“We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, and you are not your struggles, and you are here now with the power to shape your day and your future.” – Steve Maraboli
Mistakes. Let’s talk about them. I look back on my teaching and see good times and bad times, mistakes, and successes. Often, we hear about people’s success. Let’s mix it up. Let’s talk about all the times I messed up.
- I used to have my kids clean up every ten minutes, on the dot. Oh the anxiety I must have created in that group of children. This was when I was probably 18, didn’t know much about anything just knew I wanted to teach and try new ways to teach, not just do what I was taught. Great reasoning – terrible execution.
- That time I used positive reinforcement through rewards in the form of cardboard hearts. This was an actual curriculum that I found stuffed in a cabinet in my school. It was essentially just tiny hearts that you put in a jar every time a child did something nice for someone else. Then you counted them up at the end of a time period to see how “good” they did. Oh I was so proud of it. I even talked about it during my next job interview at my first Reggio Inspired school.
- I used to have a catch phrase along the lines of, Broken, Bleeding or Bruised. Those were the only times you could get upset and cry if you were hurt, otherwise you were unsympathetically told to ‘Shake it Off’.
- I would plan curriculum for months at a time based on seasons and major commercial holidays. Literally…months at a time.
- I spent more time making our bulletin boards every week or every few weeks than I did observing or even interacting with the kids. I remember actively feeling bored at work because I ran out of planning to do.
- I was so focused on introducing loose parts that I only documented and talked about the positives, and left out the struggles. I would go so far as to say I intentionally pretended loose parts was more successful with my toddlers than it actually was. The truth is they weren’t purposeful or intentional and my children weren’t interested. But I thought it was something I was supposed to be doing, so I did.
- I used to spend hours planning and setting up provocations that I would then feel super over protective of them. I would tidy up as the kids played, often chastising them for ‘messing up’ a provocation.
There are many more than I can list here, but these are the ones that stand out to me at the moment.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not lived at all. In which case, you’ve failed by default.” – J.K. Rowling
The thing about all these mistakes is I thought they were the best method at the time. Just as I am sure in a few years I will look back on what I am doing now and be able to point out times I made mistakes. I wanted to write this for a few reasons.
One, to show how far I have come in a short amount of time. I often get down on myself for being self-taught, wondering how different the last few years would have gone if I had decided to go to school and earn a degree. But really, I have learned through trial and error, by watching others, by having mentors guide me in the right direction, by observing what is and what isn’t working. Maybe school would have made this process shorter, maybe it would have made it longer. Either way, this is the path I chose to take and I am proud of it.
“One must be compassionate to one’s self before external compassion.” – Dalai Lama
Also, as a way to reflect on the value in questioning ourselves. If we don’t question what we do, we can never grow and refine what to do. This includes asking others to reflect with us. The mentors I have had over the last few years have impacted my approach in such a positive way that I couldn’t have done on my own.
And finally as a reminder that others are also on a journey of their own. I am the first to admit that I am not as compassionate as I often should be. Just because someone teachers in authoritarian ways or use pre-cut curriculum, doesn’t mean they are bad teachers. Just as I wasn’t a bad teacher. Sometimes we have to look deeper at the person’s intention – something I am trying to get better at doing.
“The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything.” – Parl Arden