I used to think that admitting mistakes and accepting feedback meant that I was weak. Because I was so sensitive and unreceptive to feedback, mistakes were incredibly embarrassing and I hated ever being wrong.
There’s a lot of issues with this fixed mindset and despite many opportunities to change, I didn’t make any significant changes until graduate school. To survive graduate school, my stagnant and sensitive mindset had to go.
What made me change?
One morning while I was student teaching, my supervisor pointed out a small detail I’d overlooked and I began profusely apologizing. I felt so embarrassed and insecure and so ashamed that I’d made a mistake, especially in front of my preschoolers. I didn’t want them to doubt me or think I was a bad teacher.
Later my supervisor pointed out to me that my mistake wasn’t a big deal at all and that I didn’t need to have apologized so much for it. Most importantly she asked me about what behavior I was modeling for my students. Essentially, I was showing them that minor mistakes made in the process of learning were shameful and unacceptable. That the process of education was not about trying and attempting but of avoiding embarrassment and not making mistakes.
Now yes, apologizing for mistakes is important but there is a point of excessive and unnecessary apologies. Or when you are receiving feedback so that you can learn. It’s better to respond with openness and appreciation that someone cares enough to help you grow.
How do I handle feedback now?
(Initially, I wanted to put in a disclaimer that I’m not perfect and apologize that this isn’t something I’ve mastered yet… but that would be an unnecessary apology and I’m working on not doing that).
Having an open mind to feedback and thanking the person for identifying an area that I can improve is how I now try to respond to feedback. I’m not perfect and that’s normal. Trying to improve and making mistakes along the way is normal. But staying receptive to feedback and maintaining a healthy perspective is harder to learn to do. But… emphasis on the word LEARN. We have to learn how to take feedback (without feeling destroyed) and use it to help us improve.
Why would I admit my mistakes?
With my preschoolers, I now stay conscious of recognizing my mistakes and showing them how to move forward. I want my students to be open to learning and if I don’t show them it’s safe to learn, then how can I teach them?
Resilience and confidence are traits I want my preschoolers to have and I now consciously model them by admitting my mistakes and showing how to move forward with a positive attitude.
Several years ago this seemed counterintuitive to me but now, with a little help from my friends, I know I can improve and still be happy and confident with myself.
And that’s why I admit my mistakes.