In Grade 3 we had regular spelling tests. Our teacher put a chart at the door with everyone’s names and a row of boxes. If you scored 100%, a star would be placed in the box. I knew all my boxes would be filled in with stars. I was a very good speller.
Sometimes when I’ve felt rushed or excited, my brain gets ahead of me – it still does. I knew how to spell all the words correctly, but when I came to write beaver — I ended up writing breaver.
I remember getting my paper passed back to me with an X. 9/10. No star.
I was devastated. “I KNOW HOW TO SPELL BEAVER!” But, the box on the chart remained empty all year and it bothered me.
What did that teach me? In the moment, I felt ashamed, embarrassed. I was as smart as my friends, who had all their stars. But one little mistake was there for all to see. I knew how to spell. That test and the missing star didn’t measure my knowledge that day, it recorded my mistake – and it affected me.
Lately, I’ve wondered about that chart. I think about the kids that got no stars or only a few. How did they feel walking past it everyday? Did it make them feel bad about themselves? Did some not care at all – knowing they had other strengths? How did it affect their self-esteem? How did others feel about being measured and compared to others publicly?
This chart-test-mistake has obviously stuck with me. In Grade 3, I was angry with myself for making a silly mistake. I felt it was unfair that I knew the word but couldn’t be acknowledge for knowing it. I felt ashamed walking past the empty box the rest of the year.
But, now…16 days out from 50, I see other lessons from this experience.
- Having knowledge is more important than who acknowledges it or sees it
- We all have unique talents and skills. They are different on purpose – providing an opportunity for us to learn and grow and support each other – each person and their skills are as valuable as another
- Tests are an inaccurate measure of knowledge
- Public praise for one can also be public humiliation for another – be mindful of others and how they may feel
- Be gentle with yourself when you make a mistake. We all make them.
- There is no need to measure ourselves against others. Be the best you can be, that’s what counts.
- And most of all…never spell beaver : BREAVER