Found Out

safe risk

I didn’t always wear glasses. And if things had gone my way during that eye exam, I still wouldn’t be wearing them.

So I’m my 15 year old self, and I find myself knowing that I’m going to struggle not on the driving test, but I am likely to stumble through the eye exam I’ll have to pass to get my driver’s permit.

I knew that my eyes weren’t great, but they weren’t terrible. So, standing in line to get my eyes tested, in a moment of both panic and genius, I thought to myself, Why not just memorize what the guy in front of me says?

Great plan, right? Nobody will know I can’t see, I won’t have to wear glasses, and I’ll get my driver’s license.

I slide up to the machine, look down into it while only halfway listening to the directions because, you know, I’ve got this, and rattle off the letters I have memorized. But when I look up, the lady has the strangest look on her face.

Thinking that I must have set a record or done something impressive, I was blown away when she asks, “You can’t tell those are numbers, can you?”

Not cool.

In that moment, I was busted. Not only could I not see, I couldn’t fake my way through the test either. After multiple failures in a matter of moments, I confirmed I had an eye doctor, knew where the DPS office was, and shrank back into my desk.

All over an eye test.

I hate it when I can’t do something, and I don’t think I’m alone.

Strength so often looks like a person who has it all together and does it all and makes it all happen (or at least appear to happen) effortlessly. No struggle. No fear. No work. No reality.

It comes as no surprise to me that in education, we’re not immune from this.

We praise innovation, creativity, resilience, risk, and grit, but we spend a surprisingly small amount of time talking about what it’s like to have these face down moments, exposed in our weaknesses, our shortcomings made plain for all to see.

And I think it impacts nearly everything we do.

All too often we are busy exploring innovation, creativity, and risk in the safest ways we can imagine. We hide, afraid of being known, and give off a nice “everything’s ok” appearance, and when we do that, we make it harder for the educator next to us, thinking those same thoughts, to embrace the challenges he or she wonders about in silence.

What if the thing we need is to be exposed in a moment of weakness? What if the thing we need is to fail?

I often wonder if it’s so hard for us to teach students how to recover from failure because we are not comfortable with our strategies for recovering from failure. I wonder of we see “recovering from failure” as hiding our mistakes, minimizing responsibility.

Maybe you don’t ever feel that way.

But I do.

Thinking back on my driver’s ed experience, it was absolutely imperative that I was found out. It would have been terrible for everyone if I had faked my way through that test. In that case, being exposed was for the best.

I’ve come to think that being found out isn’t such a bad thing.

For all the things we agree on as educators, this seems like the thing we should be in total agreement on. It’s so hard to be unsure about something. To have a gut feeling you know you have to act on, to not have the research to back it up (yet), to know you have to (and have some genuine fear of what that might mean).

To be clear, I’m not asking you to do something that will put your job at risk, or cause you humiliation, or ruin your reputation as a hard working, successful educator. What I do think would benefit us all is to add how unsure we are about things to the list of what’s important for us to talk about. Even if it’s after the fact. Even if it’s not kicking the door down on our insecurities, cracking that door with someone we trust is important.

We’re all unsure about something, but we can be unsure about it together. And together, we can work through those challenges more effectively that we can alone.

It’s not fun, but the safety in being known more deeply by other educators is worth exploring.

This blog is post #27 in my 91 day winter blog challenge. I’m posting a blog each day. Check out other posts at #91winterblogs, or subscribe in the top right corner of this blog to receive these blogs as emails. Thanks for reading!

One Reply to “Found Out”

  1. Ha! It took three years for the nurse to “catch” me! In my time the nurse came to the classroom and setup the eye exam chart and other things she needed to give us a checkup. My friends sitting next to me would whisper the letters to me and I would always score great in my vision test. It was cheating, and it really wasn’t a smart move by my 9 year old self, but hardly any kids wore glasses when I was in elementary school, I’m sure you get the picture.

    I think the older you get, the more you trust yourself, your knowledge, experiences, “gut feelings”, the easier it becomes to share what you don’t know. I remember feeling unsure in my 20’s and possibly 30’s and taking it upon myself to find answers that would not compare to a coworker sharing their experiences. In my 40’s I don’t mind at all saying that I don’t know, or haven’t read about, or never heard of, something in our profession. It’s also easier to say “Hey, you’re good at this, can you help me become good at it too?”

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