Sunday, April 7, 2013


We are not perfect. Humans are fallible; we all make mistakes, yet we strive for perfection. Why is that? I know I am guilty of this, and extremely hard on myself when I feel that I fail. But by pushing myself in this direction, by seeking perfection, what does that say about me?

I’ve had several reminders of this lately. For example, this was my status I posted on Facebook Friday night:

I was frustrated. I had just come up from our basement upon completion of a workout from Jillian Michaels 30 day Shred. If I tried to count up all of the times I have finally gotten into shape in my life, just to fall off the wagon, I’d lose count. I don’t remember a time in my adult life that I wasn’t focused on losing weight, improving my overall health. It’s frustrating. But once I posted that status, I realized I am not alone. Over thirty of my friends either “liked” or commented immediately. I was reassured, immediately felt better, and resolved to work out again on Saturday – and I did.

This same desire for perfection, and disappointment in myself when I don’t achieve it, spills over to my teaching life as well. As I have mentioned, I use the reading workshop model to teach reading. After the mini lesson each day we have independent reading and I either meet with small groups or have reading conferences. Currently I am in a conference cycle with a focus on how the student is doing in regard to independent reading. I confer with my students over what type of books they are selecting, their reading preferences, what independent reading looks like for them at home and at school. I have twenty-three kids in each of my three classes. When I started this round of reading conferences, I foolishly looked at my schedule and thought – if I meet with four kids a day, I’ll get through the entire group in six days. Ha!

First day of conferences in my second class I met with one kid. ONE! When I sat down to talk to them they admitted they were struggling with keeping track of their reading. As I helped get their notebook up to date we talked about their favorites that they had read, made some book recommendations, a child reading nearby chimed in, and we ended up conversing about Percy Jackson for fifteen minutes. I looked up and realized that it was time to switch classes. By the end of the day instead of having met with twelve students, I met with five.

I went home that night frustrated. What am I doing wrong? Fortunately I have friends that I can talk to, friends that I respect for the amazing teachers that they are. I called one up and she admitted it happens to her all the time. We laughed, talked, and I hung up feeling ready to head back in tomorrow. I recognized that while I didn’t confer with as many children as I had wanted to, the conversations I did have were important.

I think in both the case of working out and reading conferences, it was the discussion with others – people I admired for seemingly being able to do what I was struggling with – that helped me. If folks that I look up to have some of the same problems, I knew I needed to be kinder to myself. To keep working hard, but to also realize we all have days that we might be off for one reason or another.

Upon reading blog posts this morning I came across another example. Donalyn Miller’s post on Nerdy Book Club today (HERE) talks about her reading slump. Donalyn reads more than most people I know; yet she is struggling right now too. Pressure to finish a book and a grade level switch have contributed, among other things, to her slump. After examining it she recognizes it for what it is, and knows it will improve in time.

I loved this post because it was just one more reminder for me that we all have times where we aren’t at the place we want to be. This strive for perfection is how I am wired, I know this about myself. And while I don’t think that part of me that will change, I think I also need to remind myself that we all have times where we aren’t at the top. I think I need to switch my focus. Maybe the focus shouldn’t be so much on perfection, since that isn’t attainable for anyone. I think the more interesting idea is what do we do once we realize we aren’t perfect? For me, I know it will be realizing I’m not, continuing to work hard, while being kind to myself. How about you?