The path to growth and development can be ugly at times. Educators are part of a world that is continually changing and evolving, and as such
we are forced to take a leap, and at times take a leap when we are not
ready. Going through all my undergraduate classes at Mizzou we were
always told how rewarding and fantastic the field of education is, and
from where I sit right now I could not agree more. So...the big
question is...why are we afraid of standing out? Why are we afraid to
speak up at meetings? Why are we afraid to try something that has
never been done before? If education is so rewarding and fantastic, why
do we have so many educators afraid to act...? For all the great
things we learned in college, they seem to have forgotten a big
one...they never told us in our undergraduate classes the amount of
criticism and failure that go along with being an educator...
As an educator, it is almost guaranteed you are going to do something or
say something somebody does not like. Contrary to belief, you will not
melt, nor will you spontaneously combust!! The reality is you are
going to hurt, you are going to feel pain, and you are going to want to
react. Hopefully, after reading this post you will have a slightly
different perspective as it pertains to criticism and failure.
I would first really like to make a distinction between criticism and
failure. Failure is something that happens; we learn from it and
hopefully make the necessary changes so we can avoid making the same
mistakes again. Failure is a valuable learning tool, and if used
effectively, failure can be one of the most important things to ever
happen to you. We ALL experience failure at one time or another.
Criticism, on the other hand, is something you get from somebody else.
You have no control over what they say or how they say it, and most
importantly criticism can hurt much more than failure. If you fail,
that can be the end of it...you failed, next chapter or end of story.
Criticism is not so easily forgotten because the words can penetrate
deep into one's mind and heart. When someone is criticized the words
can permeate throughout an entire school...those simple words of
criticism can stop an entire building from doing anything ever again
that is remotely similar to what the criticized person did. Fear of
criticism is almost always worst than failure.
How can we convince people it is worth it to take a chance and risk
failure, or even more, risk being criticized? We have to create a
culture and environment that encourages innovation, risk taking, and
most importantly taking a leap even if we are not ready...support and
reaffirm those risk takers!! At times, we need to address the elephant
in the room. By recognizing something we are not doing as well as we
should, is the first step in accepting open criticism. We need to help
educators to use criticism in a productive manner by providing helpful
feedback. There is nothing worse than criticism without any helpful
feedback!! Additionally, be an example for others by not criticizing
others, and if you feel the need to criticize something or someone, make
sure you bring your book of solutions with you.
If you have time check out Seth Godin's view on criticism and failure in his book Tribes
One final thought...every time you get criticized means that somebody
took notice of what you did or what you said, and more importantly it
affected them enough to tell you how they felt. As much as it hurts, do
not give them the power to bring you down...allow the criticism to fuel
you toward growing and developing to do what is best for kids...