Practice curiosity to let go of perfectionism…


“Sit down before facts as a little child, be prepared to give up every conceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing.”

― Thomas Huxley

It’s 9:50…When I opened up the link, I didn’t know what to expect.  All I knew is that a bunch of teachers were going to be on the other side of my screen in ten minutes and I needed to figure it out.  

As I was getting my bearings, I heard my two year old son running around, shrieking about Woody and Jessie and all of his imaginary friends come to life.  

I glanced at the book shelf behind me…I looked at where the camera would probably get to and then I glanced at the floor around me.  Toys, books, a yoga mat, animal figurines and cars scattered around.  

What actually needed my attention in that moment and what would just be nice in that moment to have my attention became two distinctly different things.

I quickly tried my headset to see if that would work to muffle the sounds of glee wafting in from down below.  I couldn’t figure out how to get it to recognize a new sound input.

Without time to waste, I yelled down to Jordan to see if he and Lucas maybe wanted to get outside for some fresh air…you know, just for the next 45 minutes.

He got the hint and that was one thing in the plus column.  

The tornado of an office could clearly wait.  No one was going on a tour of the house and it did look that the camera line hit right where the children’s books end and the professional books begin.

It’s now 9:57 and I’m live in 3 minutes.

I pull up my slide presentation, play around with some of the tools, make sure that I know where all of my documents are and begin to welcome the participants to the session.

If you would have told me last year that I would be adept at online conferencing, virtual meetings, and hybrid teaching I would have looked at you like you had two heads.

But this last year has caused us all to learn things by necessity not luxury.  This last year has forced us to let go of the curse of perfectionism and embrace “good-enoughism.”  This last year has encouraged us to become more open to new methods and techniques because we had to build the plane as we were flying it.

Feeling uncertain is new to many teachers who have been in the field honing their craft for years.  

This year has necessitated a return to a mindset much like our first years of teaching.  But the thing about the return is that we bring all of the skills and knowledge and muscle memory with us.  It’s all there, but our mindset needs to shift back to that beginning teacher’s mind.

And we can do that through cultivating curiosity.  

Curiosity is the next SKILL that we can develop to assist in our teaching well. 

Huxley encourages sitting down before the facts like a child and just letting go of all of our big ideas and preconceived notions.  He asks us to bring our curiosity and really be prepared to follow this learning where it ends, not where we think it should.  

So if we’re thinking about our teaching lives, we can see how if we bring curiosity to our current situation, not catastrophizing, we may become open to the opportunity of the moment instead of being insistent on how we think things should be (or would be) and letting go of perfectionism.

At the beginning of this school year, I was convinced that I would not be in school long and that I would be teaching from home soon.  I barely set up my classroom and was walking on egg shells each and every day.  I couldn’t relax.  I couldn’t actually teach in the way that I wanted to because I had already written off the semester.

Then part way through I looked at the facts.  And the facts were that my students were in front of me.  We had found a rhythm.  We were making it work.  I could either get settled or not.

Bringing curiosity to that moment allowed me to let go of the perfectionism of how I thought things SHOULD be and embrace the facts of what was happening before me.

Invitations to build your curiosity-muscle so that you can let go of perfectionism and embrace “good-enoughism.”

  1. Ask yourself “What’s that about?”

When something is nagging you or bothering you, pause and ask yourself, “What’s that about?” or “What’s going on here?” and see what rises to the surface.

  1. Practice reflection

At specific parts of your day, practice informal or formal check ins to see how you are doing, how things are going, and if adjustments need to be made.

  1. Pause-Breathe-Smile

When you are feeling swept up in the doing, pause-breathe-smile.  Sometimes the very act of smiling can lighten our load and allow us to just come back to the present moment.  

Ten o’clock struck and I was officially live on the stream to a group of teachers all over the country.  It wasn’t perfect.  It was authentic.  It was honest.  I did my best and it was officially “good enough.”

Bringing the curiosity of a child, as Huxley writes, allowed me to show up and try my best even though I wasn’t sure I would turn out.  Being able to bring curiosity to this presentation for teachers that day and to my classroom during so many other days allows me to let go of what I thought I knew and embrace what is actually happening.

Letting go of that need perfectionism is freeing.  It’s a little unmooring, but ultimately freeing when you settle in.

So I wish you some time spent letting go of the perfectionism and embracing the curiosity.  

If you are curious about how to prioritize your self-care in 2021, please schedule a complimentary 30-minute Teacher Coaching Call to see if we’re a good fit to work together and make your personal and/or classroom goals a reality.


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