I kind of give off a slacker vibe to most people. I don't wear ties, usually, and I don't tuck my shirt in if I can help it. My classroom tendency is towards conversation and singing "Kum Bah Yah," and not so much a sense of urgency.
So when people--the ones who actually get close--find out that I'm a perfectionist, it tends to shock them.
But this afternoon, I realized that I may be tipping over the line into a violent perfectionism, one that may be harming my classroom practice.
While I was talking to Cheryl, as I was bemoaning some group of students not grasping something I wanted them to grasp, she stopped me and asked a very pertinent question:
Dude, what would "good enough" look like?
My answer shocked even myself. I said (I'm paraphrasing):
I want this class to be transformational for all students. I want to be That Teacher, the one who breaks the cycle of apathy for those kids, the one who incites students to love learning passionately.
I did not know that about myself.
I didn't know (or at least hadn't acknowledged) that I had set an impossible standard for myself and for them. And that's what I mean by Violent Perfectionism-- the tension and psychological explosions that issue forth (for teachers and students alike) when the standards set are not attainable, but self-flagellation still occurs for not meeting them.
I know I can't even reach all students with every lesson all the time.
And if I can't do that, I obviously can't transform them. Really, it's not my responsibility to transform, not in all situations with all students. Those are rare and beautiful moments, though I've probably had my share of them already.
Now, I don't know if this is an Every Teacher thing, or what. Does anyone have this particular brand of classroom difficulty? And does anyone have a particular solution? I'd love to hear it.
I'm Andrew. I write about learning. I like to learn.