Striving for perfection is demoralizing…

Today was the last day of school and just as I promised the kids, I waited to crack open the envelopes and read their evaluations after they left.  This year I was determined to not focus on the negatives, but of course it is so hard not to.  90% of the evaluations could be wonderful and I would focus on the other 10%.  I have come to learn that 3-6% of the kids simply will not “like” the class due to a variety or reasons.  This year I hit 2%.  But there were 3 small pockets of kids who while they reported overall to get a lot out of our time together, had some issues.

Issue #1-They though that I should do more “teaching.”  They weren’t happy about having to figure out things on their own.  They didn’t like when they had a question that I would ask them a question in return and help them determine what they next step would be.  In their words, they simply wanted to be told what to do so they could learn more.

Issue #2-They did not “learn” enough.  They equated “learning” with the amount of facts that they were responsible for knowing. One in particular sticks out that essentially said they would like to cover more events instead of going in depth into fewer.  Another one said that their friends “learned” more because they covered more history.

Issue #3-They interpreted me brainstorming with them, working things through with the class, changing plans because of a tech problem, and changing direction simply because we figured out how to do something better based on the previous days work as me not being prepared.

What was also interesting is that most of the kids who had one of the issues above agreed that they became “stronger” because of the issue in spite of me “not teaching,” not giving them enough “facts,” and coming in “unprepared.”  The three issues above always plague me.  When I first started shifting from a more tarditional style there were A LOT of kids who had issues #1 and #2.  I still have a bit to go I guess in making sure I help them interpret why doing things so differently than what they are used to is a good thing.  Could be as simple as adding a “here is why we are doing this” sort of statement when they are happening.  I have tried to add more “here is how the skills used on this project will help you when you…”  I think that makes a big difference for them, and for me to make sure I am having them do something that is important.

Drives me crazy that I am still sitting here in school focused on the several evaluations that pointed out problems.  The reality is though that by focusing on those is what will make my class stronger for everyone. Yea the good stuff makes me all warm and fuzzy and feeds my soul, but the ones that rip me are the stuff that challenges me. The stuff that drives me to become a master at what I do.  It’s funny how I am kind of a messy person.  My desk is piled high, my clothes are usually a bit ruffled, and I don’t care if my lawn is 5 feet high.  But when I am in front or with the kids I want to be perfect(however, I work really hard at pulling off a class that seems to be spontaneous in nature).  I don’t want to be good, I want to be perfect.  That quest burns me out, it sometimes sucks me down.  I constantly feel as though I am not good enough or I should be doing better.  I end up focusing on the negative instead of the positive.  I totally lack balance.  Grrr….alright, a future post should be about all the good stuff they said to balance this one 😉

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.  ~Harriet Braiker