January 6, 2017
If you’re like me, you’re experiencing the relentless pursuit of perfection! It’s not just one Lexus Moment a day, or even the latest project that’s got you–it’s your lifestyle. It’s who you are! Congratulations! You’ve made it…
To another new challenge; a new mountain to climb; another new starting line; a new opportunity to learn and grow, continuously improve, and become better. And while your perfect hits the mark at this seemingly objective moment, feelings and decisions are definitely subject to change over time. And maybe distance. In fact, I predict your Google Maps GPS has lied to you every time you reach another temporary destination, boldly proclaiming: “You’ve Arrived!”
C’mon. You didn’t really think perfect could be defined in the wide open world of learning, did you? There’s no such thing on earth as perfect. Even more alarming, perfect may be dangerous to teaching and learning. Well aware of my very own personal perfectionist challenges–I invite you to rediscover some simple truths with me:
- Relentlessly celebrate small wins, but understand that it’s a journey.
Learners all around you decorate the entire spectrum of growth. Think back to those precious moments along the way. What was it that made you feel special about your professional growth? How did you celebrate your own small wins, as well as beat the drum for others?
In 2003, my intern principal Mrs. Burns and I earned a Wake Education Partnership Food for Thought Grant to start Dolphin Watch, Davis Drive Elementary School’s first newspaper. Dolphin Watch (2003-2008) was a fifth grade club recording school and community events in newspaper print. But, at the moment, I can’t recall all the well-thought articles our Davey Dolphin-Nation wrought rigorously thru the writing process. The one shining moment I DO recall was how my high-expectations-setting principal, Pat Andrews, and our intern principal, Melissa Burns, made the moment feel so special to me by singing, cheering, and giving me a bag full of goodies with a huge celebratory balloon, as if this was a pep rally, and this second-year teacher just won the Nobel Peace Prize. And for a moment, I was king.
- Relentlessly celebrate big wins, but understand that you’re forever emerging.
The bigger hills that you DO conquer are priceless, for sure. They’re a big deal to educators–at the time. Yet, they are just that: bigger hills. We’re slowly climbing the mountain–that has no peak. Upon being king of these mountains, we need to celebrate, rest, and reflect. And then find another new starting line.
A close friend recently inquired: “What does ‘emerging’ mean, anyway?” I replied that as educators, we are forever emerging. If you are a genuine lifelong learner doing lifelong learning, you never actually “make it.” You never really “arrive.” You continue growing. I hear my educator friends talk about their dissertations, doctoral degrees, dreams of being a superintendent, and right honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them were President one day. But, it’s just a stepping stone.
- Relentlessly let it go, but understand that you owe your best to your students to #becomebetter every single day.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when educators too eagerly sing or act-in-a-way-like “Let It Go.” Please stop. How would you feel if your accountant; insurance adjuster; police chief; doctor; fire chief; lawyer; or even your air traffic controller just decided to let it go, and not sweat the small stuff? Was it not what you would have expected? Would have wished? Were legally entitled to? Deserved?
Let’s NOT let it go as educators. After all, we have the most amazing privilege and high calling of all time. After the taxpayers, politicians, families, and all other circumstances that may affect students prior to entering our learning spaces, are we doing enough to provide them opportunities to shine? While I understand that our conditions and extra efforts aren’t always perfect, I certainly hope that we do as close to perfect as we possibly can. Our kids deserve it.
The question then, as educators, is: Where do you draw the line between your personal best and perfect? When you figure that out, please reply or leave a comment…
Author’s Note: About ten images and twenty relevant links to this reflection lie in first draft mode, begging due editing and attention. I couldn’t get them to look professional enough to be perfect. In the spirit of imperfection, this is all I have so far. Over time, I’ll probably revisit and revise. Check back often…