Monday, February 16, 2015

Perfect Imperfection

Tears welled up in his eyes as I asked, "What's wrong?" 
"We are just so BEHIND!" 
My son was diligently researching the Terracotta Warriors. Hailed as a wonder when they were founded by a farmer in 1974 while digging for a well, the 6000 life-sized terra cotta soldiers guard Emperor Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum. The discovery revealed amazing advancements in ancient Chinese metallurgy and craftsmanship. ( 

I was caught off guard by his current upset as he had been so excited about the research. So I decided to ask some more questions. "What do you mean you are behind? It seems like you have a lot of information in your presentation."

He then launched into the telling of his tale. He explained in detail how he and his partner planned to have a visual of their own clay crafted warriors. Then he punctuated his story with, "Well, my partner and I decided to make some clay models of the soldiers, but it put us behind." I jokingly told him that they shouldn't be so hard on themselves as historians estimate it took about 700,000 workers about three decades to craft the original army ( Of course my son was not receiving this joke well and just shook his head with disgust. Finally he blurted out, "The problem was their heads! They just kept falling off! Then the whole soldier would fall over! We kept trying and we wasted time that we could have used for more research." 

I asked if he and his partner had kept the clay artifacts. "No," he snorted in disgust, "They didn't work mom! We threw them out."

"Don't you see son? The models were perfectly imperfect!? By structurally failing the clay models served as a great example showing the difficulty of LIFE-sized clay figures and how impressive this army really is!"

My boy shook his head in that "mom you are CRAZY" way and returned to working on his slideshow. This got me thinking as a mom and as a teacher. I often tell my students that, "Life and science rarely work out the way we initially think they will." Am I creating an environment that considers "failures" and "mistakes" as doors to opportunity; or do I allow my children and students to quickly sweep them under the proverbial rug as though nothing can be gained from them? Am I venturing to try new endeavors as a teacher? Creative risks have the possibility of yielding mistakes. Morihei Ueshiba says, "Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something." Am I modeling that much can be garnered from things not working out as one had planned? Creative risks also hold the potential of advancing us further than we could ever imagine. Taking risks requires an environment of trust. How do we support one another through the trials and errors? How do we foster an environment that allows students and teachers to forge creative territory and take learning risks? I believe this must continue to be the vision for each classroom and school. For as J.K. Rowling warns, "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default." Here's to successful failures that are perfectly imperfect! 

1 comment:

  1. Teresa, thank you for your salient thoughts. I agree with you, but I think like your son. As a teacher, I embrace the perfectly imperfect as a wonderful window for learning.
    As a learner, I just want my presentations to mirror perfection. Let the other kid embrace imperfection, but dang it - my soldiers must stand!