Perfectionism … How it makes me much less than perfect

Nobody is perfect.

You can’t please everyone, so you might as well please yourself.

Your biggest mistake is not making one.

I like to think I’m pretty good at teaching my own children and my students that the best learning happens when we make mistakes. I try to keep them from worrying about messing up, for really, one of the best ways to learn is by making mistakes.

Its hard to practice what I preach though. I think that as teachers, we are often expected to be perfect for everyone. We should set the right expectations, have everything organized just so, know everything there is to know (and then some) about the topic we are teaching, keep students engaged and interested, get everything graded ASAP, and etc. I think that’s why they say the work of a teacher is never done.

A few weeks ago, I heard a little thing on “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” where Neil deGrasse Tyson was answering trivia questions about Cosmetology (not Cosmology or Astronomy or Astrophysics). He answered the questions like any student would, eliminating the possible choices until he arrived at the one he thought was best. Well, he only got one of the three questions right – and he was chided about it (in good fun, of course).

This is how he responded:

“… had I gotten all three right… I would’ve learned nothing. But having gotten two wrong, I learned two things today.”

His response reminded me of something very important. It is by making mistakes that I become a better teacher. What can I learn when things don’t go as well as I expect? It’s all part of the journey. Each time I teach a class, I learn something new. That’s one of the great things about my job. Not everybody gets to do that for a living.

And nobody is perfect. So stop trying to be.


One thought on “Perfectionism … How it makes me much less than perfect”

  1. So I have thought about this blog every day since I have read it. It resonates with me because I think it’s true; we are expected to be perfect as teachers, and we also expect great perfection of ourselves. That’s a lot of pressure and takes a lot of energy. But the real growth and learning comes from being imperfect.

    Thank you for giving me so much to think about.


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