Mistakes Are Not My Cup of Tea.

This fine Sunday morning, I decided to break out of my normal routine of lounging around and frittering away time on Facebook to take a Hula dance class (p.s. Ow.) I came home, already sore, and began to complain to my husband about how I shouldn’t break my routines. Sure, exercise is good, but did you know that hula is actually like holding a squat for an hour with your hands up while moving your hips? Ow. Anyhoo, after I demonstrated a few moves to my husband to illustrate my point, I realized that I needed to take a rest. So I started another one of my favorite Sunday rituals, preparing a cup of tea.

My tea is always so wise. It has these little sayings on the end of the tea bag that I always read, like a fortune cookie. I get a little un-Zenned when I get one I’ve had before. Thankfully, today I got a new one:

Wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from making mistakes.

Good one! I think my tea was trying to tell me that Hula class was a mistake and it is a NO in the future. Or maybe I’ve turned my tea into a projective task…It did get me thinking about mistakes though.

Raise your hand if you like making mistakes. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Yeah, I thought so. No one likes making mistakes. I am often telling my students that mistakes are how you learn, but can I appreciate it when I make mistakes? Yeah, easier said than done. One time, in my younger days as a school psychologist, I made a mistake that cost the district $30,000. Oopsie! But that is a tale for my memoirs. I do have to say I never made that mistake again, so I guess I did learn. But I beat myself up pretty bad for a while. It still stings a little. Sure, my mistakes now after 10-ish years of practice are fewer and far between, but they are still there, and I don’t always take my tea’s advice to think of it as a way to become wiser.

We have all probably worked with kids who are too hard on themselves too. A metaphor I often use with kids who are always beating themselves up for making mistakes is to think about a baby learning to walk. When the baby first learns, he or she makes all kinds of mistakes and falls down. Do we say, “Stupid baby! You should have known better than to fall down!” I reaaaaaally hope no one out there is saying “yes” to that rhetorical question. It’s true though, we have patience for young kids and other people trying new things, but can we as adults walk the walk too, and be okay with making mistakes?

Think about your role as a parent, teacher, school psychologist, or random lurker reading this blog because you googled “tea” or something. Can we be as patient with ourselves as we are with the kids we work with? I know right now, many of us are returning to school, or have just gone back to school, and are faced with 1000 decisions every day. Especially if you are a new teacher or school psychologist, do not be afraid to make mistakes, and do not be afraid to ask for help. Mistakes are feedback. Feedback is how you learn. I think what my tea is trying to say is to try new things and reframe each mistake or wrong decision as a little slice of learning toward your wisdom pie.

I know that if I keep up with Hula class, I’m going to be free to have all kinds of pie (wisdom or otherwise) with my tea in the future.

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Comments on Mistakes Are Not My Cup of Tea.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for another great post! As a new practitioner last year (there are a lot of us now), I joked with my admins that I was still in "grad school mode" & I often needed real constructive feedback. I think the honesty strengthened my practice & rapport with the bosses!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I am approaching my second year as a school psych and have been thinking a lot about my students with beginning of the year anxiety. I think the naivety of the last year made it easier. I need to be okay with making mistakes! …however, the lingering timelines are a different story!!

  3. Terri in VA says:

    Rebecca – I have always thoroughly enjoyed your blogs. You crack me up… and you make school psychology entertaining!! I even have family members who follow your blog. They will email or call saying, "do you really do that??!!" LOL!!! And I've gotta admit… you have *smart* tea!!! Thanks for all you do!!! ~TERRI – School Psych in VA

  4. At the Gratitude Cafe, I have been told, when a waiter drops something, they raise their hands above their heads and shout with glee, "I made a mistake!" I don't remember for sure, but maybe everyone claps.
    I am currently doing a new job these days, and boy-howdy, I am a mistake-making machine–far more than the majority of the other new hires. The wisdom I get from it is having to ground my self-respect in my intrinsic worth and my character, rather than my performance. And, after enough failure, who can be afraid of failure? Failure, shmailure–I eat it for breakfast. I feel a freedom I didn't feel when I was doing things successfully–a level of freedom from the fear of failure. Go Hula!

  5. teachies says:

    I REALLY appreciate the baby analogy. I'm going to use it with my students! Thank you!

  6. Rebecca says:

    Thanks everyone! I think my tea has taught us all a valuable lesson. 😉

  7. ms.p says:

    A valuable lesson indeed!..I started my school year with a different approach, loosing the fear to be mistaken, and knowing that each mistake I´ll make is a learning experience!

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