I have spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect.
Or trying to have others see me as perfect.
When I was teaching a class, I really, really felt that way.
If I made a mistake I certainly didn’t want my students to know about it.
I got defensive if one of the bright ones tripped me up on something.
When I took up Aikido as a regular practice I became a student again.
I saw the world through the eyes of a beginner.
I felt the confusion and clumsiness of a newcomer.
I looked at the senior students (sempai) in awe.
Their seeming perfection made me feel like I was alone.
I was the only one who wasn’t “getting it”.
And then it happened.
During the demonstration of a technique, one of the sempai, working with our teacher, struggled with the move and made a mistake.
Immediately, the spell was broken. I was not alone. Other folks were finding this challenging, too.
And at that moment, I began to see the generosity and power of public mistakes.
They let us know that we are not alone.
That learning is sometimes difficult.
They give us confirmation that mistakes are a part of learning, a part of being human.
As teachers, letting students see our mistakes is an important part of their learning.
When we struggle, they must see us struggle.
They need to see us pick ourselves up and continue our efforts.
Our persistence shows them that mistakes don’t stop us.
It is all part of the journey.
It’s not always neat and clean.
But it is always exciting and rewarding.
As teachers, we must have the courage, to model authentic learning.
And the courage to be our imperfect selves.
It is through this generosity that we let them know that learning and mistakes go hand and hand.
That having flaws is a part of being human.
And even teachers make mistakes.