Making mistakes is an amazingly meaningful and important component of learning and growth. We have to do it. If we didn’t do it we would run the risk of stagnation. Without mistake making, we could forget that stumbling is a wonderful way to learn balance, that falling is great start to getting up, and that failing is an incredible tool for understanding what it takes to succeed. I am a true Edisonian (it’s a word now). I love that Edison got giddy about making mistakes! I appreciate that he checked failed attempts off of his list, watching the list morph into an expansive doctrine on how not to do stuff, create things, and achieve goals.
The bigger the list got, the closer he came to doing that stuff, creating those things, and achieving those goals. Best of all, when folks laughed, told him so, or gave up on him, it didn’t cross his mind to join them. It wasn’t important that they believed or gave him any kind of credit for forward progress. He just wanted to make good things happen. He yearned to be a factor in positive change. However, the positive change was the reward, not being the factor.
Being Right v Doing Right
Creating a light bulb is about offering people a mechanism by which to see with clarity in dark places. We in education can relate because we have a very similar intended outcome. We seek to bring light into dark places too. We work to facilitate processes by which those we serve are able to maximize, and even exceed their potential. We believe in what others might consider impossible. We understand that the world we are ever-preparing for is in many ways beyond even our most outstretched imaginations. We know that we don’t know. We seek to know more every day. We push ourselves to the max. We hope. We dream. We believe. Nowhere in the core of the values that drive us does “rightness” play a role. It ain’t easy, in part, because we are regularly bombarded by voices that insist we’re wrong. Ironically, many among us consider those voices, not in self-defeatist ways, but in reflective ways.
Educators are a kooky bunch of do-gooders who would much prefer to do the right things than to be the ones who are right. At our core, we want our communities to learn and grow, whoever those learning and growth paths are paved by. I believe that it behooves us to consider that as we walk through the fast paced, high intensity, and sometimes-exhausting world of our daily lives. It’s hard though. When frustration creeps in, we can always fall back on the action part of “rightness” and ask ourselves, “what’s important here?”
Have you ever moved forward with consensus, failed, then looked up at faces that were no longer consenced (probably not a word…but you get it)? Have those faces ever worked to cut you down with assertions like, “Wow you really dropped the ball there!” or, “Ouch, you couldn’t have been more ineffective at that?” Casting blame, pointing fingers, and other sundry attempts to deflect or distract should actually be considered boons for educational/organizational leaders! They give us opportunities to model value driven professionalism and maturity, to show those we serve that even when the road is long and windy we are better off to tread with optimism, and to thicken our skin (which can help everyone focus).
I don’t prefer to cast generalizations. However, every experience I’ve had leads me to firmly believe that being right is almost entirely inconsequential in the face of authentic learning and growth. Remember that while process is key, we should always keep our eyes on the prize. Student achievement, positive cultural development, learning, growth, fulfillment, and joyfulness perpetuate enhanced communities. Arguments and extensive perseveration over who’s right, who’s wrong, or whose idea it was, diminish communities, weaken systems, and distract from the incredibly important work we do.
So, eat that crow folks, and don’t over chew. Swallow it like a pill and move on with your life. Keep it light hearted and positive. When people point out the messes you make, the balls you drop, the mistakes, the challenges, and the errors along your path, own all of it and thank them. Then, ask for their help in moving forward. Give them the voice that they need. Offer autonomy inside of your partnerships, distribute credit for achievement, and overtly appreciate those you serve for their dedication, hard work, and contributions.
Remember that you are but a link in this chain. Celebrate the strength of team, reserve pride for your own reflective growth, and help others understand that you are ready to take responsibility for positive progress, even when that means eating crow. The more you practice, the easier it becomes, and the more impactful you will be on other individuals’ ability to see past distracting behaviors and into value/goal driven professional practice. Besides, crow isn’t so bad with a dab of ketchup. Just don’t put your foot in your mouth…that really stinks!
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.