Showcasing and Leveraging Mistakes
As a district leader, I spend hours interviewing, and truth be told, I really enjoy it. There’s something exciting about meeting people, seeing how they choose to present themselves, and listening to them respond to questions. However, I prefer to interview without a generic script and want to see how folks do when the questions aren’t from the Interviewing 101 Handbook.
One of my favorite strategies is to ask candidates to reflect on a particular mistake they made and how it affected a positive change in their instruction or leadership. Recently, I realized it’s something we all should do.
Level Up Leaders, I present to you my Mistakeume.
Anytown, NJ 08000
To identify and leverage my mistakes as a tool to facilitate professional growth
Leadership Mistake Experience July 2014-Present
- Provided departmental feedback on secondary literacy initiative to all supervisors
- Did not include literacy coach in that feedback
- Coach told me I “cut her off at the knees”; she was right
- A teacher parked in my spot, so I emailed him and asked him not to
- Realized it’s only a parking spot and maybe I shouldn’t be a petulant whiner
- Created Makerspace in our secondary library/media center and formed committee to plan launch
- Forgot to include award-winning middle school tech-ed teacher, who was devastated
- Congratulated a candidate on being named to the position before she went on final interview
- An hour later my superintendent asked me to sit in on that same interview, so I had to explain that I congratulated the candidate preemptively
- Decided to use department meetings as teacher led PLCs, called departmental PLCs, which had specific goals
- Decided to use district in-service time as teacher led PLCs, which had different goals
- No one had any idea what I was talking about when I said PLCs; mass confusion ensued
- Asked a supervisor and coach to plan a stress-relief PD activity for secondary staff
- When they didn’t do it as quickly as I would have (but didn’t communicate a timeline to them), I jumped in and totally invalidated their work (which was excellent)
Special (Mistake) Skills
- Speak very quickly and will often be difficult to understand
- Perseverate on things I can’t change or of which I am not in control
- Capable of wearing frustration on my face for the world to see
Clearly my mistakeume is incomplete. But the longer we keep our mistakes hidden, the longer we deny their existence, the longer it will take for us to grow as teachers and leaders. Rather, call out your mistakes by name. Give them their own space in your practice. Share them with your colleagues and staff. Use them to your advantage.
What is on your professional mistakeume?