As someone who works in an education setting, I always remember that I was once a student who experienced school. Reminiscing all of my years of schooling, probably, one thing that I have never witnessed as a student is the struggles or mistakes made by my teacher(s). I only know their lives in my classroom. In other words, I don’t know that they are also human beings.
“I guess teachers are also humans” – a student
I think, too often teachers present themselves, intentionally or not, as perfect human beings that, as much as possible, do not struggle and barely make a mistake. Not the attire, not the way they teach, not the way they talk, not the gestures, not everything. At least, this is my observation and experience. Why can I say that? It will be a disaster for teachers to be wrong (especially in front of students) or make mistakes because that might lead students to a wrong understanding of a discussed topic.
Personally, I used to think that making a mistake as a teacher is horrible. It never leads to a nice feeling. There is a feeling of shame, embarrassment, guilt, or other feelings alike. Besides, nowadays, making a mistake as a teacher might result in disappointed students which then leads to angry or dissatisfied parents, and might lead to us be fired. Whoops, avoid that, please!
However, recently, I’ve noticed an interesting fact. Students “want” to see their teachers as human beings. What does that even mean? They “want” to know that their teachers struggle and could make a mistake. They “want” to also know that their teachers could struggle as what students always feel. They “want” their teachers to share their lives with them. They “want” to also know that their teachers are just like them. Human beings.
Okay, then. But, wait wait… if we think about this again, why is knowing that so important for students? In fact, not only students. A similar case can be applied to us as employees or followers of a leader. So, if you are not living in an education setting, you could interpolate yourselves.
I feel that this idea could soothe us as teachers (or leaders). We can be more chilled, but at the same time gain confidence that struggling and making mistakes is not the end of the world. Be as good as possible, prepare the best, avoid mistakes, and so on, I think is still important. However, sometimes we face that struggle or eventually make a mistake. We could still learn and improve ourselves further after all the struggles and mistakes made. Parents are not perfect, teachers are not either, and definitely nor are students. We are all human beings that could struggle and need to struggle to learn more, and make mistakes.
The same is true for leaders. All leaders struggle and, as human beings, also make mistakes. The truth is, those who accept those struggles and mistakes and reflect on their journey could end up being better leaders than those who don’t.
Okay, enough for the benefits of the teachers or leaders. We are talking about students (or followers) right? What is in it for them?
It turns out that for students, whenever they witness their teachers when they are struggling and making mistakes, they could learn that their teachers are ordinary human beings, but they are willing to overcome all those challenges to do their work to the best. Teachers are willing to put aside all the problems to still help their students. Even sometimes teachers are ill but still choose to come to school to teach.
I believe that knowing that our teachers are just ordinary human beings helps soothe the students. Particularly, these days the young generations are bombarded by the ideas and concept of perfection and doing their best. But, they are not taught that it is okay to make mistakes and struggle which means it is okay to be “flawed” as human beings. They could still be successful and inspiring in the future.
However, don’t get me wrong also. This idea doesn’t imply that teachers (or leaders) could make as many mistakes as we like. No, no. People would question our trustworthiness. We still need to try our best and avoid mistakes. I mean.. I bet you don’t want to board a plane that was mistakenly designed. Or… walk on a bridge that was mistakenly built. These could cost people’s lives. So, we still need to do our best to avoid that, especially in the field where mistakes are critical to be avoided. But, keep in mind also that making a mistake is not the end of the world, especially when we are still learning at school. In fact, all the struggles and mistakes, in the long run, could inspire others to do better as well.
Personally, knowing this new idea makes me happy. I am more chilled now to express myself in front of my students. I even shared my struggle to some of them, to let them know that I still need to learn, that I struggle, that I could be so “stupid”, and that I feel their life struggle and hardships. Interestingly, but I guess not surprisingly, this helps my students to understand more about how life works and they are inspired to keep striving despite the challenges.
Humans are humans, I guess. Be it a teacher or a student, we want to know the lives of others and we want to be inspired by the full version of others. Otherwise, it will be just the same as those on Instagram who only present the wonderfulness of their lives but suffering in the back. To be fully inspired, we want to know the authenticity and integrity of a person.
So, I guess it is a human thing.. or probably it’s just me? I don’t know. I leave that up to you to decide.