Sarah Simpson

Sarah Simpson column: It’s not embarassing to be a learner

Stop being so hard on people already, we’re all just doing our best

Now in second grade, my son seems to be able to look at anything printed and read it, or at least come pretty close to figuring it out by sounding it out. He used to do the strangest thing, though, when he read something aloud and my husband or I caught him doing it.

“Hey! You just read that!” we’d say all proud and congratulatory.

“No I didn’t!” he’d reply defiantly. “I just knew what it said.”

Wait, what?

“If you knew what it said that means you read it,” we’d try to explain.

“No it doesn’t! I just knew it from seeing it before!” he’d retort. Hmm.

My son would get pretty annoyed at us that we knew he was reading — or at least trying to read. While we felt great pride in him doing his best and learning, he felt shame in not being good enough at it yet.

Now in Kindergarten, my daughter seems to be doing the same thing. They both flat out refuse to admit they’re learning and if they can’t be good at it they don’t want to do it. Like it’s somehow super embarrassing to be, what the kids these days call a “noob”.

Why do they do this? What’s wrong with being a learner?

My husband is an information junkie. He’s constantly looking things up and consuming as much data as he can. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I knew he’d be a good dad. He’s so curious about everything and I hoped that would be passed down to our children. It has, of course. But the kids have seemed to pick up this embarrassment aspect not given to them by either of their parents.

As a family, we Google so many things. In fact, it’s usually the only time we’re allowed a device at the dinner table — so we can look up information as we have questions. (I honestly don’t know how parents did it without smart phones. Well, I suppose we had encyclopedias back in the day but even those didn’t have ALL of the answers.)

I think that’s one of the problems with today’s society is that people demand perfection from everyone they encounter instead of realizing we’re all still just learners and we’re all just doing the best we can.

I know we get it a lot at the newspaper.

I got an email a few weeks ago from a man with the subject line of “spelling”. The body of the email said, quite simply: “not good.”

I normally don’t reply to things like that but, hey what can I say, I was curious.

I replied: “I need more than that Mr. [redacted].”

He replied, and I’m not even kidding you: “unite is not spelt unit”.

This man took time out from his no doubt busy day to sit down and email me, chastising me about a single letter — likely a typo that got overlooked in proofreading.

One. Single. Letter.

I’m a professional writer, I shouldn’t make mistakes. Right? That’s what people think, including, I assume, that man. The thing is I’m human. I’m still a learner in a lot of ways and I’m just doing my best.

For example, I’m still learning how to be part of the media when a chunk of the population thinks we’re liars. Honestly folks, we’re all just doing our very best and there are no hidden agendas in this newsroom. Just a bunch of stressed out writers trying to get through the day at their jobs much in the same way you do at yours.

The one thing I can’t seem to learn how to do is to please everyone. It’s impossible.

Here’s another email I got from a different person a couple weeks ago.

“How about you do a little good from your position, rather than another crap story about your family? Sorry, but it’s high time journalists got back to reporting on things that matter to the masses.”

The thing is, I thought I was writing something that mattered to the masses! I thought people liked it? Plus this is a column and not a news article and that’s why it’s in the Opinion section and not the News section.

I get more positive feedback than negative for sure. There’s something about negative feedback though, that we seem to amplify more than we do positive feedback. The negative comments stick more.

Is that why our kids are afraid to admit they’re learning?

“Good job!” doesn’t seem to make them as happy as “try again” makes them frustrated or getting it wrong makes them sad. Not everything we do is going to be perfect and that’s OK.

Life is hard enough for all of us. Nobody needs to be belittled. I’m going to continue to make it a point to teach my children that everybody’s been a “noob” at some point and many people are still in various stages of the learning process and that’s OK. It’s the people that think they’re done learning that have got it wrong.

And hey, if you find a spelling mistake or a typo in my column, be sure to email me about it: that way I can keep practising ignoring those who have nothing better to do than pester somebody whose trying their best.

I am still learning after all.

ColumnistComedy and Humour