“The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” – Theodore Roosevelt
One year I had a student in my class who had such high expectations for himself, he wanted everything he did to be perfect at the first time round. His parents, who were very supportive and realistic, could not understand why their little boy would put so much pressure on himself to be a “winner” all the time. He would often have huge melt downs and become incredibly frustrated with himself whenever he made mistakes. Fortunately, over the course of the school year we worked with him to help boost his self esteem, register that it’s okay to make mistakes and that getting things wrong simply means you’re learning something new and will become stronger in the long run.
Looking back, this got me thinking about my own learning curve and experience as a teacher. I have worked with children from all walks of life with different abilities, aspirations and talents. No two days are ever the same. Some days are amazing, and others are not so great. Teaching can be incredibly rewarding, especially when I see massive transformations made right before my eyes. On the other hand, it can also be frustrating when a decision I’ve made doesn’t go to plan, dynamics with the kids are out of sync or the workload feels overwhelming. That’s life, and nobody is perfect. The important thing, is how a person bounces back when things go wrong.
“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” – Tony Robbins
I remember a situation which at the time caused me a lot of upheaval, but turned out to be a wonderful blessing in disguise. After a few years in SEN teaching, I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and progress in my teaching career, so I returned to mainstream teaching. The initial idea was to develop, learn new skills and use my SEN experience/training to help a wider range of children.
Upon entering my new school, I found it refreshing to work with mainstream kids, a diverse school community and enjoyed being part of a wider federation of schools. However, coming from a specialist background, I began to realise that something wasn’t quite right for me personally. Focusing closely on the well-being, individual learning and therapy needs of the kids in a small class, whilst teaching them the values of respect and kindness, is something I thrived on. Instead, I was in a larger corporate, bonus/target driven business of a school, which put a lot of undue pressure on young children, expectations to conform and project the image of a ‘perfect’ school. This did not sit right with my soul or professional integrity, and began to wear me down emotionally.
Although at the time I questioned why I made the decision, in hindsight, its always better to take a leap into the unknown, than to sit back in regret wondering about what could have been. Day in and day out teachers encourage children to bravely push the boundaries, engage in unexpected activities, develop their independence and learn new skills. My move into mainstream was my way of putting what I preach into practise, and what an experience it was. It may not have been the right environment, but during my time at the school, I learnt a great deal, experienced fond memories, taught some of the most amazing children and opened my eyes to a new perspective on teaching and learning.
“No matter who tries to teach you lessons about life, you won’t understand it until you go through it on your own.” – Unknown
Fast forward to now, and I am in a child-centred team in a school and charity which leads on ASD provision and outreach. As an SEN teacher to autistic children in a busy, creative, supportive and nurturing SEN school, I am thankful for how things played out previously because it has made me wiser, appreciative and assured as a teacher. Everyday, I am continually challenged, inspired and given the freedom to authentically support the children I teach.
Life can be a mysterious set of experiences, which can shape and ground us as individuals. In truth, there are no mistakes, just endless experiences to strengthen and define a person’s character. I hope this post inspires you to be bold, true to yourself and remind your kids that there are no mistakes, because some of our biggest life lessons can happen when we least expect them.
Miss H ♥