It is a mistake to buy a can of beer and wine mix…

I´m fighting failure but I don´t doubt error. I have made mistakes. I have made many mistakes. Some I regret, some gave me gifts, some took me on journeys and some made me cry.

When you are a teacher you quickly realize children are afraid of mistakes. This seems to be an international truth. The children I teach in Brazil are as afraid of making mistakes as English kids. They want to know how to be right, how to be correct, they want the answer. I rarely feel like I have the right answer. It feels like I am doing them a disservice if I allow them to believe that if they try hard enough they will always be able find out what is right. The right path, the right partner, house, car, weight, decisions. How many of us can say we truly know how to make the right decisions? That we are never wrong, we always have the answer? Just as we should not fear the arbitrary criteria of success and failure, we should strive to accept the inevitability of mistakes.

In my last post I made a mistake. The word explore was autocorrected to explode; ´I wanted to explode the city’ I noticed my mistake but I liked it better. I did want to explode the city and examine the pieces. Through this error my writing was improved. When teaching writing to children who struggle with literacy, the children for whom most linguistic rules are mysterious and confusing, their mistakes create moments of utter joy. They are not constrained by the rules, they don´t understand the rules, this allows them to use language in creative and innovative ways. And now the multi-lingual pupils I work with, swapping effortlessly between 2 or 3 different languages, misapplying rules but generating new and interesting uses of vocabulary.  In language, mistakes can create beauty.

I was working with a Maths teacher this week (numbers baffle me most of the time). He showed me how he was working on using questions without a correct answer to elicit understanding of processes and to break down the hierarchy of ´correctness´. In Maths, there is no longer an assumption that simply finding a correct answer is a demonstration of true understanding. I´m starting to like Maths teachers more. I´m realizing true Mathematicians are philosophers at heart, existing in a numerical daydream through which they explore or (explode) the world.

It was mistakes and poor decisions which led me to Brazil. In my errors I have found a wonderful new life which grows better by the day. I am forever grateful to my fantastic friends, who over time have demonstrated true love and forgiveness of my mistakes. Who in gently propping me up, encouraging and supporting and forgiving me, gave me the strength to let the errors carry me here. Part of friendship and love is forgiveness and understanding. We are fallible human beings, usually striving to do our best in a confusing world. Mistakes happen, we don´t always have the right answer.

Life isn´t black and white with clearly defined parameters of right and wrong. When I told my mother I was coming home for Christmas her first question was’ Is it terrible? Do you hate it?’ in her polarized world, things were terrible or fantastic. She and I are learning together that things can be simultaneously both good and bad. That I can love my life in Brazil and also miss home.

So I will continue to make mistakes; using form instead of from, buying something I can´t afford, kissing a frog instead of a prince. But each kiss, new coat and spelling mistake will led me to new things. I´m not perfect and I have no desire to be, my imperfections make me human and I intend to celebrate them.