What can Chrysanthemum teach teachers about perfection?

Chrysanthemum, the perfect name for the perfect girl.  Or so she thought until … she started school.

The change in context for Chrysanthemum (beloved only daughter to one of many in the classroom) was almost too much for her to take.  I just want to step into that book and give those little rodents a good character lesson!  But I’m going to put aside the more obvious bullying lesson for now and focus on perfection.

Being one of many can be hard.  Trying to do it perfectly could be impossible.  I am one teacher on a staff of many.  I leave my house in the morning a beloved queen (well – some days I do) and arrive at school to do a job that about 6 million others in the U.S. are also about to begin.  My crown is gone and my hard hat (one with the cute little light on top) is on.

Are we all trying to live up to the “perfect teacher” ideal?

The Perfect Teacher

Perfect Illustration found on “My First Step as a Teacher” Blog

It isn’t going to happen.  Let me tell you why.

We can strive to make sure our work is excellent, complete, and of the highest quality. We just need to remember to recognize that moment when better isn't any better.Perfection is inefficient. OK, I’ll admit I have tacked the yard stick to the bulletin board in order to get my letter to stay in a straight line instead of doing a nose dive.  But this kind of attention to detail in every area would be a huge waste of my time.  How much time did Victoria waste counting letters and thinking of new insults just because she didn’t like Chrysanthemum’s name?

Perfection makes it hard for others to seek your advice.  I don’t want my students and coworkers to feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  Failure could be how we learn best. Being able to handle setbacks is a far better trait – resiliency, dude.  If you were Chrysanthemum, would you ask Victoria for help?

Perfection is too neat.  Things need to get messy before they get good.  Idea fluency means the ability to develop lots of ideas and is an important component of creative thinking.  People can’t be afraid to offer  wild ideas because these are the stuff awesomeness is made of.  Maybe if Chrysanthemum’s parents had spent more time brainstorming baby names they would have found an even better name. Rose? Violet? Poppy? Kathryn?

Perfection = Unhappy Teacher. You could drive yourself right up the classroom wall trying to make things perfect.  Your school will benefit much more having a sane teacher over a perfect one.  Are those teachers who seem perfect to you really happy?  Hard to tell, but probably not.  I bet Victoria felt miserable after completely forgetting her lines in the class musicale.

Perfection can lead to poor choices.  Poor choices can include avoiding joining leadership committees to escape criticism, dishonesty about areas that you feel aren’t good enough, or taking on too much work because you don’t want to admit you can’t handle it all.  Chrysanthemum avoided going to school by dragging her feet and walking slowly.  The whole time thinking about her absolutely dreadful name.

I’ll admit, there is a positive side to perfection as well.  We can strive to make sure our work is excellent, complete, and of the highest quality. We just need to remember to recognize that moment when better isn’t any better.  Les Brown said it best, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Now let’s play some Parcheesi!

Some Chrysanthemum books:


And another really good book for you:

10 Lessons from Storybook Characters