A couple of days ago I went to have my hair cut and highlighted as I do every 8 weeks. I decided to have my hair stylist use only red for the highlights. Usually I just have a few red pieces mixed in with brown and blonde, but I was in one of those moods where I crave change without knowing exactly what I want that change to be. Years ago when I was in my 20's and working for a financial consulting firm in Santa Barbara (so long ago now that I frequently refer to it as a previous life), I had a hair stylist who urged me to go red. I wasn't into coloring my hair at the time, so I never did it. Feeling a bit bold, now felt like a good time to try it.
Later that afternoon my 7-year-old son came home from school and launched into a story. About midway through it he finally looked at me, really looked at me, and scrunched up his face like he had just seen the most hideous sight ever. "What did you do to your hair?" he asked. "I don't like it." After this heartwarming declaration, he immediately got up off the couch and proceeded upstairs, getting as far away from me as he possibly could. Hmmm, maybe the red wasn't such a good idea after all.
After spending some time in front of the mirror, I began to think I rather agreed with him. Maybe the red was a little too much. In my early 20's it might have worked. In my late 40's, not so much. I looked . . . old. That definitely was not the look I was going for.
But I can't say I am really upset about it. Live and learn, right? I had finally done what I had thought about doing for years, decades even. So what if it had turned out to be a mistake? Mistakes will be made. Mistakes should be made. Because then you know at least you tried.
I am forever telling my students, particularly when it comes to math problem solving, to try something. So many just sit there and stare at the page, frozen with uncertainty. How many times have I done the same when faced with real life problems? The truth is, though, as long as you sit motionless and in a state of panic or, worse, a state of apathy, there will be no solution. Solutions very rarely, at least in my experience, just magically appear before you. You have to try something first. And yes, that first attempt very well may turn out to be a mistake. You may come up with a ridiculously wrong answer or walk around with ridiculously red hair, but at least you tried something. Now you know one thing that doesn't work. If you think about it, finding what doesn't work isn't really a mistake at all. It is simply a step forward.
Mistakes. Struggle. Failure. These words have come to have
such a negative connotation in our society, and yet it is through our mistakes,
our struggles, our failures even, that we learn, whether it is in math class or
in life. It is through our mistakes that we grow and become more than we
once were. They lead us to some of our greatest successes.
I have made mistakes, many of them.
I will continue to make mistakes, in teaching and in life, but I will
value them for what they truly are: learning
experiences that will lead me to a greater understanding than if I had never
made them in the first place.
Mistakes will be made. And I, for
one, will welcome them.