I know you and you know me. We couldn't be more opposite. I believe that I may scare you (or maybe annoy you) as much as you intimidate me. I believe in the realm of education, we both have students at the heart of all we do, we just have different methods to get there. I am writing to you because I care about you and I care about our students. I want to plead my case to you. I have observed you as you get anxious when lessons don't go as planned. I have been the receiver of your comments when you are uncomfortable with learning something new. I have witnessed you put up roadblocks against change and risk. I have seen students react as you off put your need for perfect; on to them.
I know you are a good person, with a good heart...why else would you be in education? Please don't get me wrong, I do not believe that I am any better or wiser than you, I'm just different. I have never tried to seek perfection because I know I can never find it. This does not mean that I don't put full effort into everything I do...it does not mean that I don't care about process or outcomes...it just means that I know that "perfect" is an unattainable goal. I know that every success I have had, was not built on a foundation of perfect, but a foundation of iteration. The process is messy, crooked, bumpy and unknown. If I went into these processes with the goal of perfect, I would have failed and given up right out of the gate. And that's not me, and that's not good for anyone.
What does this look like for our students? If we are planning and executing our lessons with "perfect" in mind, where do the students fit into the equation? There is no perfect, when working with humans, especially young ones. We are unpredictable creatures. Zoom out and see who is the focus of the "perfect" lesson. Is it us or those we teach? We very well could execute the perfect lesson, in our mind...but what about the students? Is it the perfect lesson for them? That is impossible because every student is different. Nothing is received or interpreted the same. We must plan to meet our students, not the other way around. So many times I have heard teachers say "Well I taught it...it's their fault they don't know it.". My heart crumbled every time I heard that. Back then, I didn't have the strength in myself to speak up for those students...now I do.
If perfect is the goal...think about all of the other goals that fall by the waist side. We need to prepare our students for a future that is unknown. To me, that is the opposite of "perfect". If we plan for perfect, we will be disappointed, every time. We need to be models for our students on how to think...critically. How to turn on a dime when there is a hiccup, a mistake, a fail. OR to run with something that works, that was not a part of the plan. Students need to learn how to look at all perspectives, to plan...risk...try...fail (yes fail)...rethink, redo...and repeat. We need them to not crumble or freeze when they are thrown a plot twist. That does not fit into perfect.
I always remember the story of my friend who broke out the watercolors and brushes for the first time at her new school. The students just stared at her...frozen. She had no clue what was going on. They asked her what she wanted them to paint, how she wanted them to paint it. She was stunned. She said "Just paint...whatever you want." Frozen. They were panicked...they asked "What if I make a mistake?" Their paint brushes did not move! (This was fourth grade!). She was baffled and saddened, but she worked really hard with that class to de-program the perfection out of them.
We want students that can think for themselves, be creative, solve problems, create solutions...multiple solutions. There is no "one way". When I hear a student say, "But I have to do it the way my teacher does it." That kills me. That closes the door on so many. There is more than one way to solve a problem, there is more than one path to get to a destination. THAT is what makes learning beautiful.
So please, I am asking you. Try..try...try to put your perfection aside. Look up and look around at what is happening while you are planning perfection...if you are waiting until you perfect something before you share it with your students, that something will be long gone by the time you think you are ready. Life and especially education is changing so quickly. As soon as we think we have something "mastered"; it changes and I want you to be able to change with it. I'm looking out for you, for your health...but I am also looking out for your students and their future...our future.
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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