A couple of weeks ago, I had such a sweet moment with my students. I was showing them how to do a paint by number art project. However, I soon I realized that I’d made a mistake. I’d told them to write the numbers on their artwork in the wrong places, a mistake that would take several minutes for them to fix. To my surprise, instead of groaning or complaining, my students were quick to encourage me. Several shouted out, “It’s ok, we all make mistakes.” And another student quickly assured me that “just like students make mistakes, teachers are allowed to make mistakes too”. I was touched by the grace that my students were so quick to extend to me.
Sometimes I think that God has a sense of humor. He put an immense perfectionist like myself into a profession that is so imperfect. In the last couple of years I’ve realized that teaching is a job that is impossible to get just right. There are so many complex pieces and factors that are completely out of my control. Students can exhibit challenging and unpredictable behaviors. What worked with one class may not work with the next class. Curriculum and expectations are constantly changing. And it’s impossible to perfectly plan for everything.
I’ve made so many mistakes as a teacher. However, I’m realizing that most of what I’ve learned about teaching has actually come through making mistakes. Sometimes you have to do something the wrong way in order to discover what actually works.
I’m realizing that growth and mistakes go hand in hand. When I try to keep everything under my control and avoid mistakes, I am actually stunting my own growth. Perfectionism keeps me stuck in the same place. However, a willingness to make mistakes allows me to grow and move forward.
I love how God is using teaching to chip away at my perfectionism. And sometimes he even uses my dear students to remind me that it’s ok to mistakes.