This past week, a student brought a calculator up to the desk, as students do about a hundred times a day. She handed it to me and said, “I’m the one you’ve been calling. The one who kept saying I had turned it in already. Last night, I put my hand in a pocket of my jacket, and there it was. I was so ashamed.”
We chase down a lot of calculators during the semester. Lots of students need them, and they are easy to slip into a backpack and forget. Most of them come back after a single phone call. And some students are adamant that they have turned them in as this student was.
But this student did something different. She owned up. She could have slipped it in the drop box after we closed. She could have just laid it on the desk and walked away. But she came in and admitted the mistake.
Often I find that it is students who restore my faith in humanity. Owning up to a mistake is not something that many people want to do. In fact, there was a book written about the phenomenon of the false apology, titled Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). So someone who goes out of her way to claim a mistake gets a shout-out from me.
Someone once said (a coach probably) that mistakes mean nothing, what makes the difference is how we deal with them: Denying them. Blaming someone else. Or saying everyone else does it. Those are the typical responses.
Owning up may not be the most comfortable path. But it’s the only one that results in growth.