Watch the YouTube video here >>> https://youtu.be/4zrdziunBmQ
Any perfectionists out there? I feel like out of all the professions, there might be a higher percentage of perfectionists in teaching. (Though, hopefully our surgeons and accountants are all perfectionists.) It’s taken me a while to realize that there’s nothing wrong with that. Let’s start there: There’s nothing wrong with wanting things perfect. (Shout out to my friend, Jennifer, from Everything Just So!) ;-)
The question is … How do we balance our desire for perfection with actual work/life balance.
And the answer is … this is hard for me to say . . . We have to stop expecting perfect all the time.
Let’s think about planning for a classroom lesson or activity. The perfect activity takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of planning, focus, and details to get it to 100%. I’m totally guesstimating here, but as I think about my process, 100% possibly takes twice as much as getting it to 80%. If we were to plan the basics, get the structure, then work toward perfection and stop at 80%, we’d save around ½ the work time, give or take.
So what we’re really talking about is self-awareness. We need to take stock of our personality and see how much our desire for perfection is slowing us down and creating imbalance in our lives.
LISA: I definitely lean toward 100% perfectionism.
JONATHAN: And I default toward 70% perfectionism.
It’s taken us a while to learn that about each other, but in doing so it’s even still helping us learn about ourselves. I lean toward getting things done and always have to stop before moving on and ask what detail I need to add to make this more excellent. Without spending forever on it.
And I lean toward wanting it to be perfect and have to ask what details can I live without and have this still work just fine. It’s just so hard for me because I don’t want my work to be crappy, and I think if I leave those details out it will be crappy. Basically, if I don’t get that ideal picture of my idea done, then I feel it is crappy.
So it’s either perfect or crappy?!
Yes! But that’s the battle, because when I say that out loud I know it’s not true. But my default thinks it’s true.
So let’s talk some specific examples. And there’s nothing wrong with any of these … remember we’re talking self-awareness.
Like when other teachers would hang bulletin boards, some of them would use strings and rulers to line everything up so it was exactly straight. And if that’s for something that’s gonna last all year, then I think that’s all right and might actually save time throughout the year, but if it’s just a temporary thing for a weekly display, then it’s probably too much detail.
When I’m designing a new activity, sometimes I start teaching with it not perfect and just tell the students that it’s not done. Let’s make it as we go. Then we figure out which aspects aren’t working the best so I can fix them for next year. This also has the added benefit of them seeing that each draft is progress. If they see my work in progress, they’ll be more accepting of their work in progress.
Or with my students and white out. I basically outlawed white-out on classwork and drafts because it takes too much time. Just scribble it out! It’s a draft. Nothing here needs to look perfect. Teaching Honors, I had students who expected every piece of work to be perfect. One time, I even ripped a corner off one of their papers just to freak them out. Then she wanted the corner back so she could tape it on, and I said “No.” Thinking back, I think I might have actually eaten it right in front of her. At the end of the year, she wrote me a note, and that day was one of the most impactful moments in her year.
My mom used to rewrite her papers if she messed up her handwriting on an assignment.
Another one … teachers and cutting out shapes for art projects. I get the desire to have all the shapes perfect, but that is so much time you could spend doing something else. What if you let the students cut out the shapes? Sure, they’ll be some funky shapes, but they need to learn to cut, and they need some time to work on that stuff, and I needed work/life balance. So my pre-cutting stuff had to be seriously “trimmed back.” See what I did there?
Another area I had to stop with perfection. Lesson planning … curriculum mapping. I wanted a perfect, day-to-day map, even though I realized that my plan almost never matched up exactly with what I planned. I had to start writing down 70-80% of the details, knowing that I’d just roll with it from there. I didn’t need 100% planned out in my lesson map.
So this is hard, but we’ve gotta remember that less-than-perfect does not mean that it’s crappy. It’s a balance. Cause working on something twice as long and taking time away from other important things in life is crappy too. Really, perfect is great. It’s ideal. The times things are perfect make us feel like eternity has landed in our classes and we’re amazing people because we made it happen.
Conversation of the Day: How much of a perfectionist are you? What percentage of perfect do you need things to be before you can move on?
Hop on over to watch the video and share your thoughts in the conversation.