GETTING SMART: PERFECTION VS IMPROVEMENT: THE PROBLEM WITH EXPECTING STUDENT PERFECTION

Monday 22 Mar 2021

When perfection is the expectation for children, children can become overwhelmed by dread and imprisoned by pressure. Typically they will not yet have the self-awareness to recognize and the vocabulary to verbalize the crippling demands of perfection, and so it is likely to play out through procrastination, rebellion and other unhelpful behaviors.

Improvement, however, is a concept everyone can aim for and claim. Improvement is achievable. It has no ceiling, giving rise to the notion that anything is possible.

Read or view any biography or documentary about the world’s greatest achievers: The Last Dance (Michael Jordan), Bohemian Rhapsody (Freddie Mercury), Jobs (Steve Jobs), and Soul Surfer (Bethany Hamilton), just to name a few. One thing stands out in these narratives: tenacity, fuelled by a hunger for improvement. Setbacks are drivers in these narratives. The world’s greatest achievers unapologetically recognize their human frailties and imperfections in their pursuit of improvement. These human powerhouses do not fall victim to opposing forces and are not preoccupied with the demands or expectations of a society that seeks perfection. Rather, they are intrinsically motivated to face resistance and traditional thinking head-on, and they use opposition and setbacks as the impetus to reach greater heights. They recognize they can rarely change other people, their circumstances or their environment, but they can improve themselves. And improve themselves, they do.

So, how can you support your own students in developing a hunger for improvement?

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