Frank, what you wrote made me think...
The mistakes I've made are, I find, always mistakes of appreciation or evaluation, and now that I'm aware of them... I still find it very hard not to make the same mistakes again!
Some of the worst errors made in appraeciating and understanding what was being said to me was when I was about 20. During my student days, I was really living on my own planet, the impact of reality hadn't hit. Well, at that age what can you expect.
Later I found that in some cases I had not been listening to or hearing the clear signals that people were giving me-- I was yet on another planet at the time.
In one case it resulted in people getting really angry with me, and there was nothing I could say-- really embarrassing, how could I not have heard?
Now I'm more careful-- I know that my antennaes have not been perfect in the past and I'd rather avoid the old mistakes if possible.
One thing that I still find very difficult is evaluating what young people tell me. In the old days I could mostly ignore their complaints, and, with certitude of my own youth, believe that this was nonsense and should be treated as such.
Now you can't do that, I have to address their complaints, and my problem is sorting out what should be addressed from the nonsense to be ignored.
My colleagues seem to know how to do this -- I know for every day use, I don't bumble into mistakes day in and day out, but occasionally I find it difficult to have the correct appreciation.
Some years I have ignored the complaints, which were also in a vocabularyI did not understand and honestly made no sense to me. And on one or two occasions the results were near catastrophic.
Often it just seems to me that this is play acting: young people get as worked up over last Friday's test or the trampled rights of students in our schools as over the invasion of Tibet.
Once, after an outburst of indignation, I asked them if they really believed in all this or if it was a show: I honestly didn't know.
They said of course they believed in what they were saying!
And the thing is, I think that at the time, the quibbling about their marks is
as important as repression in Tibet. They probaly don't know themselves.
Still, teachers are supposed to know those things.
My colleague Baba Cool can speak volumes about unfairness and the young, and how he himself could not abide unfairness when he was a student... and really none of it makes sense to me.
One of my colleagues and friends is much more clever than I am about all those things, and has the ability to think the way young people think, sometimes in their words, and often defends their point of view-- a very impressive case of empathy for me to study; she's not a beginner, so the empathy is not due to the age factor.
One day I asked her how one could tell whether those young people were really indignant or were just faking it.
She, the defender of the young, answered: "Ah... the thing is, you can never know."