Slice of Life: Simple Isn’t Always

Even when I have all the time in the world, the unexpected seems to happen, and I get behind. What I thought would be easy, all of a sudden isn’t and what I thought I’d get done in 15 minutes doesn’t.

Saturday I had a simple plan: to go to school and clean my carpet. My room partner assured me the process was a snap.

At 1:00, I find the machine propped up with cleaning fluid beside it.  A step closer and I realize I have no clue as to how to run this thing.

After a bit of I can’t do this, I calm down and remember Google. YouTube videos are inaccessible due to district limitations. The written word is my only hope. Putting”users manual” in the search hits the jackpot: words and diagrams.

I read the manual aloud while turning and talking to the machine. The process clarified the correct vessel for the hot water. Hmmm. That’s in the office. No problem. I grab the container, phone in pocket, out the door.


No keys.

The keys to the office and my car are inside my locked room. Slight panic.

A longer than necessary story told shorter:  In 45-minutes a colleague rescues me.

Five minutes after that, I’ve cleaned the carpet. Total time spent doing a five-minute job, two hours.

Stupid. Stupid. Human.

I knew the importance of keeping the keys with me. But I made a mistake. If you were to evaluate me on my performance, I would have scored poorly.

Why’d I mess up? I was distracted by the time and processing it took to understand something unfamiliar. It wasn’t complicated high-level thinking. It was, in fact, simple; making the work even more irritating. Once I knew what to do, I rushed to make up for my inefficiencies and slam. Big waste of time.

My mistake made me think of students. When I sit down to talk with one about reading or writing what do I notice. Are they working on something that’s unfamiliar or frustrating? Do they want to give up?  Will they make a silly mistake?  Will they rush to get it done like everyone else seems to be?

It made me think of my daily teaching plans. Every day I set forth an agenda, a plan of action for students. And most days, something happens that throws us a curve. If I push and hurry to get it done per the schedule, it ends with someone being frustrated or defeated. Usually me.

This moment of personal stupidity made me think about mistakes and what they say about people. Unknown and untried tasks are difficult at first, maybe even after the first time. What seems simple, isn’t always. Plans adjust, and mistakes inform.

Mistakes and miscalculations happen more frequently than I want to believe. What I do with the mistakes is the exciting part.


My wet and clean carpet. Ready for mistakes.


Thank you Two Writing Teachers: Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Stacey and Tara for your blog and the opportunity to share our stories. Read more slices here.

11 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Simple Isn’t Always

  1. I love the part about turning and talking to the machine! Hysterical! Great post that makes me remember new learning takes time! Carpet looks great. Custodians could not do that for you though?

  2. Doesnt the real learning happen when we err? What a frustrating situation! How thankful were you that you had your phone. As I read this, I kept thinking what a great example of a growth mindset you showed.

  3. “Mistakes and miscalculations happen more frequently than I want to believe. What I do with the mistakes is the exciting part.”
    Yes! I’ll bet you shared this story with your kids, too – and I’ll bet they learned from you .

  4. Sometimes I thought I needed to just wear all my keys around my neck, then the worry of being without would go away. No, I didn’t, & still worry about it. Your “failure” turned out to be “learning”, just what so many scientists who struggle year after year figuring out, and finally discovering some truth. The carpet, BTW, looks fabulous.

  5. Reading your post reminds me of TCRWP staff developers who seamlessly share a personal story and relate it to the reading/writing process. Such a brilliant story! Thanks for bravely sharing your mistakes and sharing your reflection. I need to do this more as I also have stupid human moments throughout my days. Instead of being annoyed, I’m going to try to think about how it is similar to readers and writers!!

  6. One thing that irritates me about this is you were cleaning the carpet. You. The teacher. What exactly is our job? It probably does not state that you must clean your own carpet. I’m glad you were able to let the frustration slide into learning.

  7. So glad you didn’t mention the waiting for a colleague to stop by, taking time out to let her in… to help her carry the bench to the car in the 100 degree heat… SO much to your story and even more to your reflection Julieanne. As always – love learning alongside you.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. Such a wonderful reminder.
    I loved this…“Mistakes and miscalculations happen more frequently than I want to believe. What I do with the mistakes is the exciting part.”

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