On the weekend the rare opportunity arose to go to the cinema with my teenage son. We sat together, eating far too much chocolate while enjoying Avengers: End Game. Without having to say ‘spoiler alert’, we witnessed the altruism of super heroes and their willingness to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
The self-sacrifice that some of the Avengers were prepared to go through to help others made the movie very moving and provided the opportunity for some self-reflection. It was perhaps Natasha Romanoff or the Black Widow who made the most profound statement in the movie:
“I don’t judge people by their worst mistakes.”
In this statement, the Black Widow is demonstrating her propensity not to judge, as judging people does not allow us to develop a real understanding of them. It blinkers us, building a set of conceptions around others that may well be misconceptions. Her statement goes further to demonstrate her empathy around mistakes. She demonstrates her understanding that it is not our failures that define us nor is it our mistakes that make us who we are. Instead, what we learn from them, and what we do about them, is what defines us. To err is to be human so what we do about our mistakes and how we learn from them goes a long way to making us who we are.
Education involves making mistakes and learning from them. In a school like Westminster, this learning goes well beyond the classroom. We strive to provide our students with opportunities to learn and grow. Our Year 9s are on camp this week and they will enjoy the challenges that this provides them. On the camp, there will be the opportunity to make many mistakes and learn from them. The test of character for our students will be to make sure they learn as they move forward.
When mistakes are made at School, they are made in a very safe environment where there is a lot of care for those involved. Every opportunity to learn from a mistake will be taken to try and help students grow and learn. Of course, at times there will be logical consequences for mistakes. What we cannot be is a school where parents want values, rules and parameters around appropriate behaviour, standards and learning from mistakes, that is, until their children are involved and may face logical consequences. Natural or logical consequences enable learning opportunities, for example, if you go out in the rain without an umbrella, you get wet and you learn from it.
In order for our children to grow and be accountable, active, engaged and useful contributors to society, they need to be allowed to learn from their mistakes. They need to feel the natural consequences of their actions, knowing that they will not be judged by their worst mistakes.