“Mrs. Moyer, today is Day 3, not Day 2. You didn’t change the schedule.”
“Oops! Mistake of the day!”
Mistakes happen. We are definitely not perfect. And yet so often we get frustrated with others and especially ourselves when expectations are not met.
I wish I could remember the origin of “mistake of the day” but I cannot. As most great ideas do, I think this evolved from a combination of experience and influence of great people around me. Regardless of how it started, this phrase has become a staple in my classroom.
Forgot to grab extra pencils on my way to class? Mistake of the day!
Left the worksheets in the staff room? Mistake of the day!
Did the announcement team flub their script or play O Canada twice? No big deal, chalk it up to the mistake of the day.
The ability to laugh at yourself is a gift. Learning that making mistakes is normal, a common occurrence, and is to be expected eases the pressure we often feel to be near-perfect. When students see me failing with little things and shrugging it off they see that I don’t expect perfection from myself, so I certainly don’t expect it from them. When we can kindly giggle at a goof with announcements or a technical issue (again) with a presentation, it reinforces extending grace to others.
Social media allows us to post our highlight reels and successes and filter out the unflattering mistakes. We can curate an image we want to present rather than reality. That’s a lot of pressure. It’s so easy to compare and feel that we come up short. But we all burn the grilled cheese sandwiches (literally and figuratively).
A wise consultant once encouraged me to choose a “favourite almost” when marking assignments and highlight the things that went right with a student’s response when we reviewed as a class. Who wouldn’t want to hear how they succeeded rather than failed? Or be recognized for effort rather than perfection?
Over time, trust builds with laughing off our missteps as do the inside jokes and our sense of community. Last year’s class would randomly calling out “Hey, Google!” when they felt overwhelmed and some of us really enjoyed Rick-rolling each other. This year we keep returning to the Clock Incident when someone closed the door, the clock fell off the wall, skidded across the floor and never told us time again. “Remember that time Jayden* broke the clock?” And there is also this gem: “Remember how Mrs. Moyer thought Abdul* was in grade 6 for the first month of school?” (yes, he’s a grade five, but who doesn’t like a challenge?)
Learning in a pandemic has brought unique opportunities for my mistakes: “I was sure I included the attachment in that assignment, just a second.” “What do you mean you don’t have access? Didn’t I grant that to everyone?” “Guys, if I get kicked out of this meeting, just sit tight and know my router conked out and I’ll be back as soon as I can.” So many mistakes of the day.
Mistakes are inevitable. It can be refreshing to celebrate them rather than cover them up. Trust me, I’ve burnt a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches.
*Names have been changed.