Do you know how many songs there are about mistakes? Loads! One of my favourites: My Favourite Mistake – Cheryl Crow
This week I have come across more mistakes than I care to mention. Some of them mine (deal with it, move on), some of them other’s (not the end of the world, nobody died, everyone pulls together to sort it out) and some of them I have just heard about (my goodness, someone’s life is in your hands).
What do they all have in common? Well none of the people concerned set out with the intention to do harm. Mostly, good intentions are surpassed by inattention to detail for a wide range of valid reasons; tiredness, workload, the intensity of other things happening in the lives of the people involved that just stop them functioning at the upper limits.
Often the perpetrator punishes themselves far more than we would choose for them – wise words spoken to me about a commercial mistake I made almost 30 years ago that have never forgotten. The kind way in which the mistake was dealt with has not been forgotten.
Mistakes are not the same as regrets – my opinion. For me, regrets are about those things that go beyond mistakes, situations where we look back and wish we had made different choices – hindsight – marvellous. I really don’t think I have any regrets because I do think there is a purpose beyond our understanding. (see Yesterday I Broke a Plate)
Anyway, back to mistakes. Children make mistakes all the time – spellings, calculations, choices at lunchtime… They need to understand that sometimes there are consequences but that often, just holding up their hands and acknowledging their mistake is the first step towards putting it right. If we teach this explicitly from an early age we can expect children who are able to see solutions and not just obstacles. We can build people who are honest about their failings and don’t try to blame someone else or to cover up what they have done. They may also need help to learn positively from their mistakes (which takes time and patience) and goodness only knows we rarely learn from the ones that other people make.
We need to model this for them. When I get something wrong in class, when I respond to situations without thinking, I need to stop and actually say “Sorry.” Sorry I was grumpy because I was feeling hot and bothered, sorry I blamed you without really checking what had happened, sorry I failed to do something that I promised I would do… The list goes on.
I have the utmost respect for the teachers I have worked with who have been able to apologise properly (sorry is such a hard word for some people to say), when it is sincere, an apology can build bridges and shows that we are all human.
So next time you make a mistake, you’re in good company – don’t let it define you.