Mistakes Won't Kill You

Just the other day I took on the task of uploading some video from this past Chemistry Camp onto the Accessible Science YouTube channel. I’ll spare you the gruesome details, but will say instead that the technology and I were not on friendly terms when I finally swallowed my pride and sought the help of one of our Chem Camp graduates, a film major with extensive YouTube experience. When he looked at the channel, there were several rejected duplicate videos, I’m still not sure how they got there, and other videos whose names were computer generated defaults which were confusing at best and unprofessional at worst. In short, it was a mess!

At this point many of you are doubtless wondering why I’m going public with this story. I’m the director of planning of Accessible Science after all, and one of my unspoken duties is to make the organization look as good as I can. To that end it behooves me to appear competent and in control. When I make a mistake or something goes wrong, some may say I should quickly cover it up to preserve that professional appearance.

In fact, I have worked with many who have done this, leaving me with a false impression of their ability to perform flawlessly in situations where I knew I was fallible. These experiences never failed to leave me feeling incompetent and foolish. If a student or potential student ever feels that way because I failed to acknowledge my own fallibility, I have failed in what I believe is one of my most critical roles with Accessible Science.

We call our students kids, but they’re actually on the cusp of adulthood. They are undertaking the often difficult process of learning how to complete the responsibilities which come with being adults, and they will make their share of mistakes along the way. As blind people they face additional difficulty because they are seen by society in general as less capable because they can’t see, and far too often they do not have positive blind role models to show them how blind people tackle every-day challenges.

It is through mistakes that people, blind and sighted alike, learn to do things confidently and efficiently. It is through our own mistakes that we can best assure our students that when they themselves stumble; they are only taking the first step to greater success. As mentors and teachers, we set the best example by admitting to our mistakes and allowing our students to watch us learn from them.

Mistakes aren’t reasons for reproach, but opportunities for growth. Sometimes that growth is painful, as the mistake which precedes it carries harsh consequences, but to not have made that mistake would carry consequences even worse. For to never make a mistake is to never try, and to never try is to never grow, and that is a mistake from which we can never profit.