All of this week, we’ve been in our classroom getting organized for the first day of school on September 8th. We’re not totally ready to go yet, but we’re getting close, and the room has definitely undergone quite the transformation. Last night, I sent out this tweet.
One of our Board’s superintendents, Sue Dunlop, replied to my tweet this morning.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Sue’s tweet today though. The truth is, I probably do want our room to be “perfect,” or as close to perfect as it can be. I don’t think that I’m alone in this.
I know that the classroom is constantly evolving to meet the various needs of the students. They’ll help make changes. They’ll create new areas to learn and revamp the areas that are currently there. They’ll add signs, create our alphabet, share their work, and hopefully, slowly fill the room with their many interests and growing thoughts.
My partner, Mandie, and I spent much of today discussing our plans for Tuesday. There was a lot of back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of the Challenge Game that my previous vice principal, Kristi, taught me. Mandie is a fantastic player of the game, and I can’t thank her enough for really making me think. Together, we developed a plan for Tuesday. The hard part about our plan and our discussion is that we both had to admit, this might not work. Things are likely to need to change. The changes could be small or they could be big ones.
There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes. There’s nothing wrong with going back and trying again. But when the recipients of our mistakes are students, it’s hard to not want the first attempt to be the best one. When we both believe so passionately in a philosophy (i.e., the play-based approach to learning), it’s scary to think that theory may not always align perfectly with reality. We decided that we need to start slow. We need to really watch our students and really listen to them. We also need to really listen and learn from each other. I think that my updated “one word” will be a great one for this week … and many more weeks to come.
We may not get to “perfect,” but we’ll keep getting “better,” and maybe this growth is what matters most. What do you think? How do you get comfortable with knowing that “perfect” is not the ultimate goal? I’d certainly welcome any words of advice!
The “work in progress” looks amazing. The students will be so pleased to see the organized and well laid out space. They will play and enjoy and as they do they will put their mark on the space. It will evolve and likely will never be “perfect”.
As for the advice – I am the last person to ask. I admit to being a perfectionist and am fully aware of the hazards this causes for me. I have made amazing progress in this area since having my own children. It is hard to keep everything just so with 3 infants/toddlers/now 10year olds around. I have had to make consessions and find a happy “close enough”. Some days I am better at this than others.
I can’t wait to hear all about the first few days and how the space evolves as the students interact with it.
Thanks for the comment, Sarah! Glad to hear that you like the look of the space. I really hope that the children enjoy it too, and I’m eager to hear and see what they think. What works? What doesn’t? I’m sure the space will evolve throughout the year, and I’m curious to see how it changes and why.
I wonder how many educators are like us and perfectionists too. I bet that there are many! Maybe that’s why inquiry and play-based learning can sometimes be a challenge, as we need to get better at letting go. I know that I’ve had to remind myself of this many times these past couple of years (as I’ve embraced the philosophy more), and will certainly need to continue to do so this year.
While it is so difficult for teachers who have very high expectations for themselves (& their students) to hear, I think we have to abandon the idea of perfection….I know, I’m twitching myself as I say it! The problem with striving for perfection is two fold. The first is perspective: what we see as perfect may not work for the very people we are working so hard to perfect it for: the students. And then if a student feels it doesn’t work for them, they will think that there is something wrong with them since the environment (or the lesson,or the assignment etc) is perfect. The other problem is that I think one of the biggest skills we are charged with teaching and encouraging is risk taking. Risk taking leads to innovation and original thought. The ideal of perfection is a ceiling that limits that, I think.
I think you are grappling with this for these very reasons, but it fights against our internal expectations for ourselves as educators. This is one of those places where I think we as educators have to be ok with feeling uncomfortable for the ultimate sake of our students. It’s hard stuff!
Thank you so much for the comment, Kristi! I really like this thinking. I guess that the hard part is that we want to have high expectations for students and for ourselves, but where do we draw the line between the goal of high expectations and the goal of perfection? Maybe it comes from an ongoing willingness/openness to make changes, both with students and based on what students say and do. Again, I guess it comes down to that careful listening and observation.
It was interesting today, as I took a video tour of the classroom to put on our class blog before the weekend. As I was walking around the room and talking to the parents about our day and our room arrangement, I kept seeing what I really like and what I worry needs to change. I’m still concerned about the number of items out for the students to explore. I worry that it’s too much. But then again, we don’t know these Senior Kindergarten students, and we don’t know their strengths, needs, and/or interests yet. It’s REALLY hard, but maybe we just need to give it a go, knowing that the amount, type, and location of items could need to change. Hopefully the kids can show us how to make these changes.
This year might actually make me less of a perfectionist, and with your explanation on why that’s important, I actually think this will be okay. Thanks, as always, for your support and insights!