Today, I had to eat a huge slice of humble pie. Even though I’m in my ninth year of teaching, through a series of oversights, I ended up with a classroom full of high schoolers who had gotten quite unruly as a collective.
Before break, I reached out for help. And I happen to be lucky enough to work in a school where that call for support is respected and responded to. While the dean of students led a restorative circle with my class, I vacillated between feeling relieved, embarrassed, supported, and guilty. This is the stuff I’m supposed to be good at! I had worked hard on the individual relationships with students, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the container for the group that had degraded overtime.
One of the things mindfulness asks us to do is stop identifying so deeply with our mistakes. When we make our “failures” a commentary on our goodness as people or educators (which is one of my favorite pastimes), we contract from the world and try to hide so no one can see that embarrassing thing we did. In the past, I have not even wanted to look at an error I made myself, let alone show it to others, in a desperate effort to preserve some facade of competency.
Instead, because of a lot of gentle awareness practice, in this case I was able to shine a light on the problem and show it to my administrator and my students in order to solve it.
If you are prone to defensiveness like I am, I invite you to just start noticing when that comes up for you. Can you be gentle with it, and reassure yourself that who you are and the mistakes you make are not one in the same? Maybe ask yourself who or what you are trying to protect. Then, ask yourself what it might feel like to drop the defenses a little (even just for yourself, if not others), to look clearly at the problem, and move forward from there.
Humble pie, it turns out, can be surprisingly delicious.