I’m a little particular about the way things are done in my classroom. Yes, I’ll admit that I’m borderline obsessive-compulsive about it. I used to think that there was nothing worse than laminated cards that weren’t cut exactly so, or a handmade game that wasn’t perfectly straight. I used to spend hours--and I mean hours--measuring bulletin boards because I couldn't stand to look at a crooked one! Then reality set in and I decided that help was worth way more than perfection.
I’ll never forget the day my neighbor teacher and I decided to trade classrooms for a few hours. We each planned a project for the other’s class. We let the kiddos stay put, I brought my project supplies to her classroom and vice versa. When we were done, I opened up our adjoining door and began shuttling students with my supplies back into my classroom. Then I saw my friend and my heart stopped and I’m sure my mouth dropped. My kind, well-meaning friend was cutting out pieces to a vocabulary game I created. Worse yet, she was having students (the horror!) help her.
I didn’t need to say a word—one look at my face and she gushed apologies and explanations. I laughed it off, thanked her for her help, pretended like it didn’t bother me, but then steamed about it for hours afterward.
Looking back on it, now years later, I feel horrible. What was I thinking? Here was a well-meaning friend that was trying help a girl out. And I was so worried about straight lines and perfection that I couldn’t appreciate her.
These days, I’m lucky if I even have time to make new materials for my students to use. And when I do, they are far from perfect. I send projects home with willing students, solicit help from parents, and even let my 8-year-old cut out those games for me! Honestly, does it matter if it’s perfect? In the grand scheme of things, what matters is that my students have meaningful activities to do that will help them meet their own personal learning goals.
I still cringe sometimes when I see projects that are not done to my perfectionist standards. But if I can get a few extra minutes with my family or to sleep, I can overlook it. Most of the time.