EnSpirit suggested we look at ‘Your Greatest Mistake’ as the focus of an article.
My immediate response was to draw a complete blank.
Me? Make a mistake? Surely not.
How do you interpret ‘Your Greatest Mistake’?
Do you think
“What did I do wrong?” or “What was my biggest regret?” Or do you ask “What was the unexpected thing I did that was not supposed to happen, which I saw as a mistake but was the greatest thing that could have happened to me?”
My greatest mistake is not the one where I was left with regret over what happened, where I went wrong, was inexperienced, or where I didn’t follow the plan.
I have always viewed my mistakes as a tool to move me forward, a stepping stone to better things, once I had worked out what NOT to do!
So, my BEST mistake was when I became a teacher in a primary school.
It was wrong for me on so many levels.
As a right brain creative I now know that I am in my flow when I am unrestricted, free to challenge, take on new opportunities, push boundaries and tackle the unknown.
Now put that free spirit in a space where EVERYTHING is planned, where curriculum is king, policy is restrictive and fear abounds from the ever present OFSTED inspector. You can understand how I quickly suffocated in this world.
What did this look like in reality?
Well I was often in trouble for being a maverick teacher; brought before the head for not following the rules, and told by my fellow teachers ‘you can’t do that!’
My mission was to teach and empower the children in my care (primary age).
Sadly the national curriculum was bent on boring them to death. I asked myself, on what planet was it ok to spend a WHOLE TERM using one book across 3 subject areas to provide lessons.
If I was bored how on earth were young children going to manage?
I always maintain that the National Curriculum was invented to keep poor teachers up to a certain level, and not for each school to slavishly follow, strangling the creativity in good teachers.
For this I hold Head Teachers responsible: they should be brave enough to recognise their best staff and encourage their genius by offering greater freedom.
Too many Heads are held back by fear of the unknown, of repercussions, of criticism. They have a tough job.
Despite all of this I loved my time spent in the classroom; we had a ball.
The eight years I spent in schools saw me develop and maintain mini lessons to help children who were challenged in their gross and fine motor skills, which prevented them from enjoying a normal school life.
We arranged an ever changing smorgasbord of activities that, for example, improved their balance, which in turn had a beneficial impact on their handwriting.
We taught them how to skip which boosted their confidence in their peer groups. This saw the parents coming in to thank us through tears, because of the amazing impact it had had on their children.
Not unsurprisingly this small innovation enabled the school to attain an ‘outstanding’ accreditation for the school.
These children were the ones wearing the labels of ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, and all manner of ‘special needs’. All that they needed was to have an individual plan to support them where they were at.
Why would we put them in a literacy class and expect them to write a story when they couldn’t even sit still.
The red tape and restrictive environment eventually got to me and I could no longer battle through to be the best me that I could be.
I was being thwarted by people who were intent on ticking boxes and completing the paperwork rather than the benefit of the children. It was a world gone mad and I had to walk away.
At that time becoming a teacher felt like a mistake, and if I’m honest I felt like a failure.
In hindsight, it was the most powerful time to learn about me; my inner passion to nurture and empower individuals, to create, to find solutions, and to know that rebellion for all the right reasons is something that is within me.
When faced with an injustice I am brave beyond measure.
The skills I learnt during this period have stood me in good stead as a business coach. I found that the only difference between teaching children and adults - apart from crowd control- is that children are more willing to try something new, more open to be creative, and find joy in every opportunity.
Adults can struggle with being wrong, moving on, blame, vulnerability. It takes longer to get to the centre of their being, who they truly are. Yet by connecting to our inner child we can quickly fly.
Looking back, I can see that I didn’t like going to the same place every day,: having the same routine day in day out drives me crazy, and being ruled by the clock rankles.
Growing up in an environment where you went to work, and did the 9-5 every day I thought it was something that everyone felt.
That I had to put up with the drudgery was simply something that life was all about. Once I discovered that it didn’t have to be that way by becoming my own boss, and treading my own path I became free.
Yes becoming a teacher in a school didn’t suit me: it was a mistake to become entrenched in a system that doesn’t push for the enrichment of every pupil’s life.
Yet I wouldn’t swap that period for the world. I learnt so much,: from my fellow teachers, (sometimes what NOT to do) but more importantly from the children.
Together we created, we laughed, we discovered and worked together to help each-other over obstacles and challenges and we loved each other. They enriched my life as much as hopefully I enriched theirs.
My greatest mistake became part of what I do today.
Understanding that children have no voice in their world made me passionate about being a voice for others.
By working with BeCollaboration I have seen how we can make a difference through Collaboration. How different our world can be when we work together, make up new ways of being, occasionally ignore the rules for the greater good and ultimately love each other.
Our humanity cannot be destroyed by policy, rigidity, complacency and ignorance.
It is up to community, whether it is an accidental one like a school classroom, a voluntary one like a BeCollaboration community, or the beginnings of the Enspirit Global community. We come together to create the change we need to see.
I urge every parent to spend some time in their child’s school, get to know their teacher, build a relationship with them, understand what makes them tick.
You can then support your child in their journey through a compulsory 13 years of school, to make the most of it.
There are some genius people in your child’s school: if you treat them like a babysitter that is what you will get. Your child deserves better. You could say bringing up the next generation, is a team sport: don’t let your child’s teacher do it alone.
Even viewed as regrets not accomplished – learning a language, singing on the stage at the London Palladium, growing a global organisation are simply dreams yet to be realised.
I haven’t let them die, they will be with me until I die – and I plan to tick them off the bucket list by then