It’s a fact of life: We mess up. It’s not the mistakes themselves, but how we respond to our mistakes that really make the difference. I once worked for a dean who said to me “People remember the last thing you did. Make the next project you work on really good and everyone will have moved on.” He was right. Graciousness. Indeed, surrounding ourselves with people who have our best interests at heart, see our potential and reach out their hand as we pick ourselves up after being knocked down; this is how we grow.
Acknowledging your mistakes; reflecting on what went right and wrong; following through on your vow to learn from your experience and do it better next time...that’s graciousness on your part. It’s humbling, but these “growing pains” are necessary experiences.
When I look back at the past 15 years of my professional life, I’ve had more moments than I’d like to admit where I wanted to hide my face in embarrassment at some of the moments I wish I had handled differently. Pride, inexperience, immaturity, ego, over-commitment...no matter what your personal weak points or what your “breeding” has or hasn’t been, we all have had our share of missteps. It has taken me a good part of my professional life to accept that it is an insane energy and morale drainer to strive for perfection. I think it took the reprioritized life that comes with having a child of my own to finally accept: Perfection is never going to happen. We are human. And, as life continues and we take on more professional and personal responsibilities, the graciousness of others is just as important today as it was in the beginning, where many of you are now. Whether you are student teaching, a career changer, or in your first couple of years after college trying hard to get experience and fulfill your urgent call to make a difference in others lives, a lot of your young learners and my own growth flourishes because of it.
Your journey begins and ends with the gift of graciousness. The graciousness you’ve been given as you forge your own personal and career path. The graciousness you demonstrate with your own students when they have challenged you, but you know there is a spark inside of them that can be enlightened by your steady guidance. And, when you are 15 or 25 years into your career, or retired and still giving to your profession...remember those who exemplified graciousness to you and pass it on to others, so that they will have the confidence to pursue opportunities where they will make a difference, too.
Throughout your personal and professional life, stay connected with those who set an example of what you hope to give and be thankful for the gift of graciousness.
Duquesne University, School of Education
The opinions expressed in Career Corner are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.