Forgiveness, more specifically self-forgiveness, is a concept I have battled with over the years, especially the years that I have spent as an educator. It wasn’t until recently, when I burdened myself with the crushing blame of unrelenting heartbreak and pressure that I really understood the value of forgiveness…
I am the typical, albeit scouse-version, of Orwell’s Boxer; my maxim is unquestionably ‘I must work harder.’ There is no doubt about it. I have been this way for as long as I have been employed, in any sector. But when it came to working in education I just didn’t feel like I was doing enough, so that lovely little, well-respected maxim quickly developed into ‘I must work even harder’ and so the story goes.
I was creating resources upon resources, strategies upon strategies in an attempt to deliver the golden nugget that eradicates disadvantage, that provides students with the secret formula to succeed in an ever-changing world. But no matter how hard I worked, how much research I filled my rooms with I felt like nothing I could produce was good enough. I became my own worst critique – a detrimental, unforgiving force that would not concede. If only I knew the impact that I was having on my own mental health. In the words of William Blake, ‘hindsight is a wonderful thing, but foresight is better.’
It wasn’t until I moved into middle leadership that the concept of forgiveness really sunk in for me because all of a sudden, my mistakes, my imperfections, my perceived weaknesses were on show for a whole host of adults to scrutinise and question. It was in this uncertain territory that I really began to question the work I was producing and began criticising myself when a strategy or resource didn’t work the way I had hoped it would.
It took mountains of work and a village of people to show me the ridiculousness of holding myself to account for an impossible outcome, a common side effect when working to improve the futures of hundreds of children. It was a hard, near-impossible process to go through – it took time, patience and resilience to build my self-kindness back up and it wasn’t until I was able to acknowledge my own forgiveness that I was able to understand the importance of my shortcomings, my mistakes and accept that what I was doing was good enough. I realised that without forgiving myself, it was impossible to see past the flaws and appreciate something for the greatness it had yet to become.
“It is important that we forgive ourselves for making mistakes. We need to learn from our errors and move on.”Steve Maraboli
Now more than ever, it is crucial to grasp the concept of self-forgiveness. We work in a world where the mounting expectations of our roles as educators are unmanageable; in a society that often, thoughtlessly, devalues our purpose – not through malicious intent, but purely through lack of knowledge and understanding. We now find ourselves in uncharted waters, where the way in which we have been trained to teach, stood in front of a class, delivering an hour-long lesson is no longer feasible. Yet, we also find ourselves in a favourable position – a place where we are given credit, where credit is due, for the work we do on a daily basis.
If you haven’t seen the #DailyWritingChallenge from @Ethical_Leader on Twitter you need to get on there and have a little poke around. It’s a great way to keep you occupied during the Lockdown, whether you are writing your own response to the challenge or reading others!