My son likes his first grade teacher. It’s a good thing. I breathe easier knowing he’s spending so many hours of his day with someone he feels comfortable with.
And his teacher likes him. She’s told me that he’s a good worker, that he does everything he’s asked. But ...
(You knew there was a “but” in there), but, she called my son “perfect.”
She meant it as a compliment, but I bristled. I wanted to take her aside and request that she never use that word when referring to my son.
When my son was born, I called him perfect. I don’t think I’ve used that adjective since that night six years ago. (Here’s the link to an earlier blog in which I wrote about Perfection: http://wendykennar.blogspot.com/2013/10/perfection.html)
There really is no such thing as perfection. I used to tell my students that I was less concerned with perfection and more concerned with effort.
Being called perfect is dangerous. It’s a lot to live up to. I know. I was the “perfect student” -- quiet, well-mannered, smart, neat, obedient. I was the kind of student every teacher hopes for. And I am pleased that my son is behaving so well at school. But perfection isn’t easy to maintain. You’re either perfect or you’re not. So, I often worried myself sick -- I cried in class, couldn’t sleep at night, and didn’t eat my lunch at school. It was how I handled (or mis-handled) the responsibility of maintaining my perfection. And I did it. I stayed perfect. Perfect and unhappy.
Right now, my son is happy. He likes school. He likes learning. He likes recess. He likes playing with his friends. He likes p.e. He likes homework. Everything is fun. And that’s the way it should be. He’s six years old, after all.
We’re just getting started on his academic career. Ryan will be in school for at least the next dozen years. And I don’t want him spending his student years concerned about being perfect and afraid to make a mistake. So, I consciously try to praise my son’s efforts rather than his outcome. “You followed all the directions.” “You were paying close attention to your teacher.” “Wow - you finished that whole worksheet.” “You wrote so neatly.”
My son is many things -- creative, funny, serious, smart, happy, affectionate, curious. He doesn’t need to be perfect.