Here’s a little story of how I realized why mistakes are good to learn from. It takes me back to the sixties (yes, I was a 60’s child!) and shows how, at the time, I was angered, but later on, learned that the incident had made me a better person.
A very long time ago, I remember the first time of feeling let down by an adult.
I was at primary school aged, I think, around 5 or 6 years old and in our class we were told to write a story about what had happened to us the day before. I can’t recall the precise details of my masterpiece but it was along the lines of having fish and chips for supper and how much I had enjoyed it.
I handed in my work and skipped merrily away.
The next day we had our work returned to us, and on mine was a note in red ink to ‘see me’ after the class had finished. I thought the teacher had spotted something I’d written in my book that needed slight attention, but wasn’t worried and carried on looking forward to playtime after I’d been to see ‘Miss’.
The bell rang for playtime and everyone filed out apart from me and Miss Passey. She called me over and said I couldn’t go and play until, after reading yesterdays work, I had learned to spell ‘Wednesday’.
OK, I thought, tell me how and I’ll be on my way.
But no, she sent me back to my little desk in the middle of the room and told me to write it down correctly until I’d got the right spelling…only then would I be able to join my friends in the playground.
The Plot Thickens!
But here’s the part that has always stuck with me. She didn’t tell me how to spell Wednesday. I had to work it out for myself without any help.
I remember sitting there and thinking ‘it’s spelled Wensday’, so jotted that down and took it up to her desk.
NO! Go back and spell it correctly!
I skulked back to my seat.
Wensdey – No!! Get back to your chair!
Wensdee – No!! Go back!
Wensday – No!! No!! No!!
I painstakingly looked around the classroom for any evidence of the word that looked like it could say ‘Wednesday’. The blackboard was empty of any text and there was no evidence of this elusive word anywhere.
Every time I wrote down an answer, she got angrier. I remember even slipping in a silent ‘H’ as in Whensday and trying the same with Whensdey, Whensdee and maybe even Whenzdee, Whenzday and Whensdy and other combinations.
Witness to all of this was one of the schools cleaners who was emptying bins from the classroom. She could see the frustration I was feeling by my watery eyes and reddening complexion.
I was so looking forward to playtime that my mind was now racing away with panic. I thought I would stay in my chair for the rest of the day.
Miss Passey then nipped out of the classroom to attend to some other business and at that moment the cleaning lady slipped me a piece of paper with the word ‘WEDNESDAY’ written on it followed by an index finger to her mouth accompanied by a soothing ‘schhh’.
‘WEDNESDAY’ – Who Put That ‘D’ in There?
Who would have thought there was a ‘D‘ in there?!
I remember my heart missing a beat, I now had my get out of jail card a duly wrote down the correct spelling. Miss came back into the room and I played for time, just for a minute or so, before I walked back up to her desk with the word ‘WEDNESDAY’ written in my own fair hand writing.
“At Last!”, she bellowed. “You see…you knew it all along, you were just be stupid”
I was then allowed to join my friends for the last few minutes of playtime.
I remember though, that it tainted the day and for weeks to come. If I didn’t know how to spell Wednesday, or even seen the word before, how was I expected to write it down correctly?
The feeling of being the school dunce was overwhelming. Nobody should be made to feel ‘dumb’.
Who knows, I may have been told about it in a lesson, I can’t be sure, but I was 5 years old and I might not have even been in that lesson.
Even at that young age I felt I had been wronged. The teacher played the first bully I had ever come across…and I didn’t like it one bit.
It was probably the first time I had lost confidence in an adult too. How could she have been so mean?
A Lesson Learned?
To some, this little incident may seem trivial, but to me it made a mark. Sometimes it’s the little incidents in life that make the biggest impressions.
As the years have gone by, it has taught me a valuable lesson in human nature.
The cleaning lady was able to see the injustice and came to my aid. I thanked her the same day and always felt we had a bond. I would always speak to her, wave and smile for the rest of my time there. She made me feel good.
Whereas the teacher would always be to me a manipulating bully who was capable of true malice. I didn’t take anything she said from that day forward as being positive and was glad she left before the next term had started.
What it DID teach me, HOWEVER, was to have patience with people. If someone doesn’t know how to do something, no matter how easy it is to you, they shouldn’t be made to feel incompetent.
Whenever someone is struggling with something, and I know the answer, I will always try to help them figure it out.
Don’t Judge A By Book It’s Cover
Everyone is different. One of the smartest and most intelligent people I know left school at 15 without any qualifications. On paper, she could be seen as one of life’s dropouts, when in fact she owns two businesses, owns three houses and can debate, with strength, on almost any subject you can throw at her.
She has the strongest mindset of anyone I know and an inner power that belies her 5 foot frame!
We should never underestimate anyone, or tar anyone with brushes.
For instance, if you asked 100 people to spell psychological correctly, do you think every single one of them could? And those that failed, would you label them as being less smarter than you?
I see people deride others as being thick, dumb or just plain stupid if they don’t know how to do , in some people’s eyes, a simple task. It may be simple to you, but to them it could be a complete mystery. It doesn’t mean they are a lesser person than you.
I’ve learned to never judge a book by it’s cover, instead, I like to find out what’s inside first then form an opinion.
Back to my primary school incident, even now, I feel a tinge of anger towards Miss Passey if I think too long about it. But how do I know that she didn’t mistake me for another kid who she had spent time with learning the word ‘Wednesday’? Or perhaps she had told me in a previous lesson, but I wasn’t paying attention?
But at the time, I felt anger, resentment and mistrust of her and continued to do so well into adulthood.
I realize now that we shouldn’t hold grudges and when all is said and done, that little example taught me how to be patient with people and to not expect everything to be simple.
Why Mistakes Are Good
So, was it a good lesson learned?
Yes, I think it was and although it may have been wrong at the time, I can see plenty of right in it now. It must have had a profound affect on me in my formative years because I can remember it as if it was yesterday.
We all learn by our mistakes and the little injustices that befall us, but the secret is to learn from them instead of letting the results defeat you.
Mistakes are great teachers!