The Burnt Cookie: letting go of mistakes


A new year always gives one pause to reflect on how the past year rolled out and time to consider how things will unfold in the next twelve months.  Over the Christmas break, my kids and I were invited over to a friend and colleague’s house to skate on their home-made backyard hockey rink.  My friend’s son is the same age as my middle son and her daughter is a student at the school where I am vice-principal.  The kids had a great time skating and playing outside and then it was time to come in and have a snack.  My friend’s daughter, I’ll call her Sophie (not her real name) decided to warm up her chocolate chip cookie in the microwave.  Beep, beep, beep went the microwave as we all continued talking and snacking.  Sophie opened the microwave to a billow of smoke and a completely burnt cookie.  Any other 12-year old might have become upset or have been completely mortified at her 1-minute mistake.  Though I later heard from her mom that she said, “I can’t believe I burnt a cookie in front of my vice-principal!”, in the midst of billowing smoke Sophie laughed, waved the smoke with her arms, ran to the door to open it, and continued to giggle at her mistake.  I was so impressed with her grace and composure.

As I think about how my year as a vice-principal in a busy middle school went last year, I know there were lots of great things that happened and that I was a part of and there were also a few burnt cookies.  I am the type of person who, if I allow myself to, will ruminate over and worry about my mistakes and wonder what people are thinking about what I did. I need to learn how to be more like Sophie and laugh at myself, learn from my mistakes and move on.  I have heard lots of great things about Carol Dweck’s Mindset and have put it on my reading list for this year.  I hope I can use my burnt cookies to create a growth mindset as I work on improving my skills as a school administrator.

With that being said, here is a list of what I hope to work on this year…resolutions so to speak.  Some professional, some personal.


  1. Be out of the office a LOT more and in classrooms working with kids and teachers.  I think this is the number one way I can improve as an administrator and know what is going on in the school.  It also goes along with relationship building which is essential to my role.
  2. Prioritize better – this includes getting better at using my i-phone calendar.  The alert function is fantastic and essential for me.
  3. Thank people more – this means making an effort to notice and acknowledge people.  I know I appreciate when people notice what I am doing well.
  4. Listen more – this is part of my admin growth plan where I want to improve my communication skills.  In an effort to connect with what someone is saying I know that I sometimes I talk too much about my personal experience and stop listening.
  5. Focus on family – with Masters coursework now complete I should be spending more time playing with my kids, not thinking about school and work.
  6. Focus on health – I have signed up for 2 half-marathons, a 12 km and the Mud Hero (a run combined with obstacles and mud…crazy right?)  I now need to align my diet with my running goals.
  7. Care more about the world – I have a keen interest in social justice and follow the news but feel that I am often just an observer.  I would like to volunteer more, give more and strange as this sounds, donate blood.  I have never done that.

Finally, I resolve to go easy on myself when things do not go well.  I plan to take Sophie’s burnt cookie with me throughout the year (figuratively, of course!) and remember what she taught me about grace, the ability to laugh at oneself and how to let go of mistakes and move on.