Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism’

Slice of Life Tuesday: Life, in Metaphor

July 20, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!


Yesterday I had a GREAT idea for a blog post. I was starting to craft it in my head as I always do, until I got sidetracked.

Fast forward to this morning, when I got up and could not remember for the life of me what I wanted to write about. I racked my brain, trying to go back through my day yesterday to jog my memory.

Nothing.

So I started to think on what ELSE I could possibly blog about today, what subjects I could take on. They all seemed pale in comparison to the idea I had yesterday. None of them brought the same excitement.

To kill some time, I sat down with a crossword puzzle. I usually don’t enter a word unless I’m 100% sure it’s the answer. I’m the kind of gal who would rather leave things blank than track how far a mess-up went. Of course, I still make mistakes and need to erase them.

That’s when it hit me.

You see, just yesterday I was working on this same puzzle. Just yesterday I worked those squares, hoping for no major mess-ups. Just yesterday, I had one of those mess-ups, and had to rely on my trusty eraser to clean things up.

Only, I couldn’t.

You see, the pencil was old enough, and the eraser was unused enough, that it had hardened on the outside. Rather than deftly sweeping my shortcomings away in a pile of of rubber shavings, I just got a black blurry mess.

That got me thinking.

Erasers. We need them. They clean our messes, big and small. They give us a fresh start on things. Erasers let us take comfort in knowing we can take chances; there’s always a way out with an eraser.

But we can only begin erasing once we look at our paper, see something wrong and recognize it’s worth the time to fix it. Otherwise, we can plow ahead without worrying.1 And if we don’t use our erasers, if we’re not in the habit of recognizing and correcting errors, those erasers harden. They fall into disuse, and when we try to use them again they just leave a bigger mess behind.

And isn’t that the way of us humans? (C’mon, you saw where this was going, right?)2

We, too, have to be in regular practice of noticing our mistakes. We’ve got to be aware of times we leave messes that bear fixing. We’ve also got to take enough chances knowing we’ll mess up sometimes, knowing we may have to fix things. And if we don’t use those figurative erasers, if we fall out of the habit of recognizing where we’ve gone wrong and working to correct it, they3 will harden. And once we’ve fallen out of practice, it’s so much harder to admit mistakes – and SO much harder to find ways of making things better. 4 5 6

So yes, my friends, we need to keep our pencils sharp. But let’s also remember that pencils have another, worthy end.

“The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half-inch eraser – in case you thought optimism was dead.” – Robert Brault


1 and sometimes you do skip errors because who has the time to make sure we’re always 100% error free?
2 yes, this is definitely proof that I live in metaphor and can’t ever shut it off
3 like our hearts
4 yes, i know that every metaphor breaks down at some point, including this one
5 and even the best eraser job leaves traces of the mistake that wasn’t there
6 I mean, we can’t just erase our mistakes with people – there are always echoes, right?

The Best (and Hardest) Part of My Day

April 24, 2013

(overheard in my third grade math group as some kids were trying to put a math problem together from random words and numbers)

Them: Mrs. Levin, this is hard!
Me: Yep. It is. You’re not complaining, are you?
Them: No.
Me: Oh good. Because you deserve to have things hard sometimes.
(more work, more missing the target)
Them: Is there even an ANSWER TO THIS?
Me: Yep.
(more work, still no answer)
Them: This is IMPOSSIBLE!!
Me: Nope. Nope, it’s not.
Them: This is so FRUSTRATING!
Me: Yep. And you deserve frustrating. You deserve the chance to work for something really hard.
(more work, still no answer)
Me: (taking some index cards with the words and numbers on them) Here, try arranging these until you find something that works.

20130424-214711.jpg
(shuffling the cards, switching and swiping, still no answer)

Them: Mrs. Levin, are you SURE this has an answer?
Me: Yep, I’m sure.
(more shuffling, more debating, until EUREKA!)

20130424-214722.jpg

THE HARDEST PART
Watching them and saying nothing even though these kids were SO DARN CLOSE, SO MANY TIMES. My tongue still has bite marks on it.

THE BEST PART
Me: See what I mean? You struggled through something and then you did it? How do you feel now?
Them: Super-awesome.
Me: Yeah. ‘Cause you ARE awesome. Awesomely awesome.

Happy New Year: Finding Resolution

January 3, 2013

As a self-professed blonkie (read: blog junkie; yeah, you can trademark me on that one), I’ve cruised around to various posts listing new plans and resolutions for 2013.

So, of course, that set my mind spinning about what I could bring to the party.

I confess there was something getting in the way, though. There was some nagging feeling that kept me from sitting down and writing a post about my New Year’s resolutions. For a couple of days, I tried to figure out what it was.

It wasn’t for a shortage of things I wish to work on, either personally or professionally. Keep up on grading. Keep computer files organized. Get my house clean. Flip my classroom more. Take breaks from technology. Quit snacking so much. Try to do more centers. Blog more. Run more. Sleep more. The list goes on and on.

I’m forever an optimist, mentally visualizing my ideal teaching, my ideal life, my ideal self.

I’m also a perfectionist, which means I’m continually beating myself up for not being that ideal. Those things to work on? They play constantly in my head, like a tape loop that repeats itself.

That’s when it hit me. Why am I sitting here trying to make New Year’s resolutions when I’m really, in truth, doing it every day? Why should I make a special attempt on this holiday to focus on self-improvement when I’m critical of myself all the time? What is the point of using New Year’s as another opportunity to commemorate my shortcomings?

This year, I vote no.

It is more important to me that I begin to internalize the merits of self-worth. It is time to replace desire for perfection with the pursuit of excellence.

After all, how am I supposed to teach my students healthy responses to perfectionism if I can’t get there myself? Simply put, I can’t. I need a better way of doing business.

And you? Are you willing to toss aside traditional resolutions in favor of more attention to healthier, more positive thought patterns?

Who’s in?

Back on the Ice: Lesson Learned

December 28, 2012

Today was a hockey day.

I haven’t been in my full equipment since the middle of the summer. I know, I know. I had set out to learn how to play ice hockey, and take you along on my journey. I know it’s important to keep going with lessons and clinics. I know! Somehow, I’ve let myself take a backseat to my family’s schedule, volunteer obligations, and just plain old life.

The first thing I did today on the ice? I fell on my behind trying to close the gate to the rink. Yeah. You read right.

Out there scrimmaging with my kids, I felt even worse. All I remember is scrambling to stay up while my kids (and some others) pretty much went around me like I was a cone. Awesome. Talk about feeling foolish.

We only had a half hour on the ice today, but that was enough for me. Dejected and embarrassed, I slunk out to change into street clothes. Thinking that my skates were the issue, I took them to the shop for a good sharpening. I was told they didn’t need it (consider it -ahem- “user error”). Yeah. Thanks for pouring salt into the wound there.

So there I was, sitting with my hockey bag by the door as I waited for my boys to come out of the locker room. First thing my son says to me as he comes out? “Good job, Mom. You even stole the puck from me once.”

Hmm.

For those of you who know me, you are pretty familiar with how loudly I let perfectionism speak to me. Just when I was busy feeling silly, my own kid recognized my efforts as good enough for what I could do. And here it was. The voice of Realism, telling my voice of Perfectionism to sit down and shut up.

If you want me tomorrow, I’ll be out on the ice. Trying again. I’ve got pucks to steal.