Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Resolutions and Mistakes - the start of a new school year


     I just read a recent Mindsteps Blog post about teacher 

resolutions and making mistakes.  The skinny on that is that 

teachers start out each new school year by resolving not to make 

mistakes.  And, even though we know that's humanly impossible - 

we all make mistakes - as teachers we hope that we can get it 

together by getting on a clean page at the start of each school 

year so that we can get it right this time.  Or, should I 

say...perfect?  But,  alas!  We know, especially those of us that 

have been teaching for many years and therefore (should) know 

better, that mistakes are bound to happen and the harder we run 

from them the harder we'll be hit by the consequences when they 

catch up with us.  And, catch up they will!  So, instead of 

vowing not to make mistakes.  To get it right (perfect) this 

time.  To make the best bulletin boards ever.  To not speak a 

harsh word.  To have all lessons planned out way in advance or 

just in advance.  To always have morning meeting, class meeting, 

closing circle, writing workshop, reading workshop, math workshop 

and on and on, running smoothly the way it's supposed to look 

like according to those wonderful professional books some of us 

devour like other people eat chocolate cake, I, for one, plan to 

make sure that I face my mistakes head on.  Instead of running 

away, I resolve to study what happened and do something to make 

up for the mistakes or change something the next time I'm 

confronted with a similar situation.  Isn't that what we tell 

students all the time?  Robyn Jackson is right.  Even though we 

reassure our students that making mistakes is part of learning we 

don't believe it for ourselves, and maybe not even for our 

students.  In fact, we go as far as saying that no learning 

happens without mistakes.  We go ahead and try to hide our 

mistakes.  To stuff them away in the dark closet of our teacher      

guilt which gets more and more crowded all the time.  We pretend 

they didn't happen.  We blame someone else for why our lesson 

didn't work.  We get angry at the class for not doing what we 

planned which they might have done if we'd planned.  We get angry 

at ourselves but we don't recognize that anger as having anything 

to do with our guilt and shame about making mistakes in the first 

place.  Instead, we go through another day at school hoping that 

the next day we'll forget our mistakes and resolve not to make 

another mistake for the rest of the year.  Until...

So, when do we get off this roller coaster and realize, 

acknowledge, embrace, even celebrate our mistakes?  When do we 

use these mistakes as learning opportunities?  If we don't 

practice this ourselves then how can we expect our students to 

feel comfortable making mistakes and to learn from them?  So, I 

have a new resolution for this fall.  (Will this be a mistake?  

To make a resolution, I mean? If it is then I can examine it the 

way I would any other mistake and learn so that I can do better 

next time.  Hmmm...Is that the purpose of examining our mistakes?  

So that we can get it better next time?  Might be a mistake.)



     Anyway, here it goes:  I resolve to recognize when I've made a 

mistake (not hard to do since this is often experienced 

viscerally, first).  I will then attempt to make up for my 

mistake or change my teaching so that it reflects what I've 

learned as a result of my mistake.  Rather than wallowing in my 

mistake I resolve to wallow in the solution to the mistake - what 

will I change, make up, adjust, take away, add, etc as a result?

Wish me luck.  This is a new approach to the beginning of 

the school year for me.  I can feel my throat getting stuck as I 

try to shift my mind set to this new way of thinking.  All new 

ways of thinking are painful; this won't be any different. 
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