I signed up for an art class in high school, thinking it would be a cake class. I loved art and thought it would be a nice break from all the difficult trigonometry, physics and chemistry I was learning in my other classes.
It was my senior year, and I was weeks away from graduating. We had one last project in art class to complete: A clay vase. Not to brag, but I created a masterpiece. It was beautiful, with intricate vines and ivy leaves climbing up the sides and encircling the top rim. My teacher, Pam Kravetz who you can read about in this week’s spotlight story, complimented me and so did a lot of my friends in class. I was really proud of it. My mom loves ivy, so I was going to give it to her as my last art project of my high school career.
All the students put their projects in the kiln and went home for the day. The next day, I came in to class so excited to see my piece and how it turned out. Mrs. Kravetz started passing out the finished projects to students one by one. And when she was done, I was the only student without a project in front of me. She saw my concerned and confused face and quickly came over to me.
As she knelt down, she whispered to me, "I’m sorry, Amy. Yours must have been the one that blew up in the kiln last night." I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I decided crying was the best option (typical emotional teenager choice).
I felt like kicking the kiln, yelling at the teacher, and breaking someone else’s project so they could see how I felt. Luckily, in retrospect, I did none of the above. I just sulked.
I was sad that my beautiful creation was no more and sad I couldn’t give my mom the gift I had planned to give her. I also was concerned I would get a bad grade. Apparently, when you use too much water when forming the clay, it expands and will cause the project to burst in the kiln. Rookie mistake, but I wanted to maintain a high GPA for the last semester of my senior year. I had some pending scholarships depending on it!
Mrs. Kravetz kept me after class that day. It was then I learned the most important lesson of my entire 16 years of school. She took my hand. In it, she put a clay leaf she recovered from the kiln explosion. She told me the semester wasn’t over and that she would stay after school if I was willing to put in the extra time so I could remake my project. And she said, "The great thing about failing is that you know more the next time you give it a try."
I stayed after school for several days, remade my vase, got an A in class, gave the vase to my mom and she loved it. But more importantly, I’ve repeated Mrs. Kravetz’s important lesson to myself countless times since. All throughout college, at my first "real world" jobs and especially since starting my own business here at Cincy Chic, I’ve used this lesson to remind myself that failure is just an opportunity to do better the next time.
I recently reconnected with Mrs. Kravetz on a personal level (gotta love Facebook). We went salsa dancing the other night together and I got the opportunity to thank her for that important life lesson. She smiled, and without a word, I could tell that’s exactly why she’s in the teaching profession.
We headed back on the dance floor and put that life lesson to good use. Despite stepping on a few partners’ toes while learning our first salsa moves, we knew more and were better for our second, third and fourth dance.
I think Garth Brooks said it best: "I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance."