Ditch the Lie of Perfection
Hello Educators. It has been a bit since I’ve published a full post and as busy as it has been, I can honestly say that I’ve missed the space of writing with you in mind. This blog has become one of my self-care opportunities as I have been able to connect on a human level with others who are committed to the challenging work of transforming young lives through education. Thank you for coming back weekly to read and share. I count it an honor to impart and support in any way that I have done so far.
How are you doing? How has the journey of school reopening been for you and yours? For the students and families, you serve? Pause…take a deep breath and then really answer the questions this time. Oftentimes we race through and throw out quick answers we think people want to hear or thoughtless responses that allow us to limit our access to the feelings that are swirling right below the surface. Other times we quickly answer the questions as if they are an obstacle to getting to what matters. Sound familiar?
As I’ve had the privilege of hearing from educators in various districts, some of the feelings that continue to come up has been: overwhelm, frustration, tiredness, fear, anxiety, worry, etc. Others have been able to push into positive optimism but that has not been the majority. I began wondering about some of the reasons associated and how much the notion of perfection may be playing a role in how educators are experiencing this time. Let’s take a moment and level set.
We are returning to school after a shortened school year where students and their families have experienced significant loss and discomfort among a myriad of other realities. The pandemic has led to a loss of income, security, wellbeing, and in many cases…loss of life. In tandem with this reality, our country is amid a reckoning of the racialized society that we have and the detrimental and more often, fatal repercussions it has and continues to bring for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
As districts are attempting to respond in a way deemed appropriate at this moment in time, educators are being asked to adjust traditional approaches, check and interrogate their biases, mindset, and paradigm that their identities bring, create a safe space for deep and meaningful conversations with students that affirm their identities and center their lived experiences, prioritize the agency of our students and their families and create decision-making models that include their input…all while mastering new school and district schedules and modalities that increase student learning.
How do you feel? It is a tall order. It seems almost impossible and yet…it is a necessary and critical order. Nothing that I listed can wait until next year or next week. It can’t wait until we feel ready or trained up enough. It has to happen now, tomorrow…in the next class we teach, or the next meeting we attend that supports student outcomes. Whether on the school or district side, there is an urgency like never before and we cannot allow ourselves to get in the way of true transformation for our students. I sense, however, that this is exactly what can happen. And this is how. Stopping short of doing what we can at the moment as we strive for perfection.
After spending time reading up on racism, antiracism, identity, biases, building community, etc. the students are here. What will you do with all the learning? After all the PL sessions that may have overwhelmed you with numerous strategies to increase learning in the virtual space, which strategy will you use first? You may be asking yourself some or all of the following questions. Which steps will have the most positive impact on my students? Which strategy do I know well enough to avoid failure upon the first attempt, making the situation worse for my students? Do I bring up racism or not? Should I just be extra nice and understanding with my students and wait for them to bring up any issues they might want to talk about? Should I bring up COVID-19?
The answer? Just do something. Pick one thing and fold it in. It may not be the perfect something or you may not execute it perfectly but there is an awesome gift called feedback that is here to ensure that next time, you’ll land it even better. Be vulnerable to ask for it and take the stance of a learner and you will be amazed at how much pressure is alleviated. This year I find myself in quite a bit of newness and my initial mindset is to push towards perfection but as I found myself taking on a level of self-imposed stress, I had to remind myself that this season is not about perfecting (what season is?), it’s about getting better. Consider the quote below…
Perfection is overrated, boring. It’s the imperfections-the vulnerabilities, the weaknesses, the human elements that make us who we are, that make us real, beautiful…necessary. ― Guy Harrison
We are in our own space of learning this year. This year we are experiencing significant change that stretches, pulls, and oftentimes, breeds discomfort. It is the unknown uncomfortable that can lead to true transformation as we lean into the personal and practice shift that is required of us. I would wager to say that at this moment if we find ourselves too much at ease and comfortable, we may want to ask if we are pushing and growing enough. This time is about us becoming radically self-aware and embracing the imperfections and the mistakes that we are bound to see and not allowing this reality to inhibit new action and new practices. Because herein lies the opportunity for our own personal and collective greatness.
The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. ― Anna Quindlen
We get a choice in all of this. Continue with business as usual and revert to familiar ways that can mitigate a small portion of stress temporarily and lead to little or no change for students. The other choice...dive into the deep end with our eyes, ears, and hearts wide open, modeling risk-taking, openness, and self-compassion in the most vivid manner for the sake of what is necessary and possible. You can do this. We can do this. I’ve made my choice, which one will you make?
In Solidarity and Love,