I can't believe how much I am failing lately. I definitely am in the thick of it.
I've had an interesting history with failing. Here's the basic rundown:
- Failing is bad and embarrassing, and I should be ashamed.
- My failure requires someone else's sacrifice to make it right.
- My failing is inevitable, and there is providential meaning in it meant for me.
- My failure is someone else's fault.
- Failing is my jinx or curse.
- Failing can be avoided with proper preparation and/or positive thinking.
- Failing means I'm growing, learning, changing and strengthening.
Today I was talking to the 3rd graders in my last class of the day. They were lined up at the door, and I was showing them how I have to squirt out paint into the trashcan in order to get the twist top lids to close. I told them it seemed like a lot of paint to waste, and maybe they could study math and science and come up with a better engineered squirt top lid, that didn't require so much paint to go in the trash.
One boy cried out, "I'm going to be an engineer actually. I really am."
"Perfect!" I said.
I know we have a tendency to want to use light language with ourselves. At least I do. Calling something a failure may sound a little intense. But I want that strong of a word. I want it because it bears testimony to how big my successes then are. The contrast of my interaction with these kids at the end of the day vs. my interaction with the kids at the beginning of the day was very different. I failed to be the teacher I wanted to be in the morning, and I realized at the end of the day that I failed because I have never done this before.
To step into something new can be a wonder or a horror, and really they are different sides to the same coin.
"I've never been here before!" (How terrifying.)
"I've never been here before!" (How incredible.)
There is constant recalculating going on. My brain waves feel like popcorn popping.
"Life as an improvisatory art...You know, people think improvisation means you don’t practice, but I have a cousin who is a jazz flutist. And I know that jazz musicians practice improvisation by the hour. Improvisation is a high order of skill."
I am learning improvisation skills because the classroom is different every single day. The classroom is different every single hour. I am practicing to become a better teacher, person, leader, improvisationalist, artist.
I am failing at a high rate and adapting at an equal rate. I have no clue who I will have become at the end of each day. Sometimes the failing feels frustrating and immense. In these instances I want to rid myself of "the ick" of that quickly; I try on other teacher's methods. Even in this I am failing and learning. I realize what does work for me. What doesn't work for me.
My mind crosses out my actions each time they don't work, demanding me to move forward instead of backwards.
Okay, if not this then what?
Okay, if not this then what?
Each time I am getting closer to me, to my values, to how I would do things if I were seasoned, which I am not.
It doesn't mean I don't know what way is best for me. In other words, it wouldn't help to have someone sit in, observe me and give me feedback. In fact, I believe that would be detrimental. I would waste valuable time trying to implement their tactics instead of following the natural course of figuring out what best suits me.
I AM figuring it out, a day at a time. I get a fresh litmus test and a fresh log sheet every single day. This process can't be hurried, exchanged or bypassed. I get to feel the intensity of failure, yes even the pain of it. To own it as my very own. I get to feel the thrill of success. To own it as my very own. I get to grow stronger, more confident. I get to pick myself back up. I get to see my progress. I get to taste victory that I creatively worked hard for. I can't imagine anything more satisfying. This is my magic.
Failure is a part of the artist's journey. What is your history with it?