Our education system: where good enough is just perfect

I’m running on about 3.5 hours of sleep right now and, yeah, it’s my own fault.

I’d like to blame it on Jaegermeister (not really because I’d probably be puking now instead of writing), but I’m blaming it on my stupid self instead. The problem is that I sometimes strive to be perfect.

Stop laughing (besides, that just means you know me). Yes, I realize I’m not perfect, and that I look, act, seem nothing like a perfectionist. I have mountains of un-opened mail heaped on my desk and paint splatters on the tile in my laundry room, a cat who will only pee in front of the dishwasher (I don’t get it either but there’s now a litter box there), and two teens who are, well, teens. I’m reminded of my flaws hourly, even more often when people are awake.

But my work, that’s different. Whether I’m researching, writing, planning, studying, whatever, I have to make it perfect. If I don’t, someone might look past this work and see all the messes listed above.

This, BTW, is obviously not the right approach to school.

When you’ve been out for a while like I have, you forget how much reading and other bullshit that isn’t really bullshit they load on you in school. And you forget that it’s expected you’ll half-ass most of it, which is why they give you more.

It’s that ask-for-a-mile thing. The instructor assigns three readings. All she’s really hoping for is 1.5, but if that’s all she actually asked for, you’d read the first paragraph of the first article and go have a beer.

In the 20 years that I’ve been out of school, I’ve forgotten this. So I’ve been reading every word of every assignment, sometimes re-reading, and taking detailed notes, which means staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning to do it, then starting over again at 5:23 a.m. the next day.

Ugh.

This same shit — this innate (or inane) desire to make everything perfect — is part of what spit me out of the workforce, too.

I’d like to think my kids are actually to blame for this and so many other things. For example, before I had them, I’d grab something from the ‘fridge for lunch and eat the crumbs on my floorboards for breakfast on the way to work. Now I dedicate time each night to making real lunches for everyone and ensure breakfast is ready for the next day, too, so everyone makes it out on time. No one ever actually does but that’s a different story.

Then there’s their inadvertent impact on my work. Kids caused me to care about stupid things like job security. (Before kids, I’d go through a job a year. Hello unemployment!) But when you’re in marketing, job security can be hard to come by. You’re the first ones to go during hostile takeovers, which happen all the time (or almost never), and stock market crashes (there’s been one in my lifetime). You pretend to be upbeat and positive, even though colleges continue to pump out newer, cheaper, less-bitter replacements for you. You know you’re expendable. If you’re a writer, you’re likely an introvert who hates being called out or called upon, and who hides in the corner pretending to be invisible when someone mentions layoffs. Your only form of job security is obsessing over every word and comma placement.

I was both a marketer and a writer. That’s a double whammy. Like a neurosis speedball.

Did I mention I’m also a procrastinator? Maybe the fact that I’m blogging when I have homework and angry clients nagging at me speaks for itself.

I know I’ve got to find a way to convince myself not to be like this. I’m pretty sure that, as a teacher, “perfection” is a pipe dream, kind of like a living wage. Perfection doesn’t fit into the education world, where you’re juggling 150+ students and 150+ individual styles. Kids learn differently, think differently. You’ll never hit it out of the park with an assignment because there will always be a kid in the class, like my son, who hates it.

“She’s making us write tweets,” he told me once about an assignment in his English class, “… from Ben Franklin’s point of view.” Ahh, Ben, the air-bathing, syphilitic wonder (why didn’t they tell us that in school? I might have given a shit.)

“Add French whores. He was quite the fan.”

“I hate social media,” he reminds me. “This is stupid.”

See? What seems like a really fun exercise to me (I’m already writing tweets in my brain) is dreadful to the super-smart-and-utterly-unmotivated-pain-in-the-ass teen who lives in the west bedroom. And I’ll have 150 other kids who are completely different and just like him to contend with, too. No matter what I do, whether it’s a social media writing assignment or giving them the recipe to poop gold coins, someone is either going to hate it, not understand it, not listen to it, or just not care.

No, I’m not dressing as Ben Franklin to get their attention. Well, maybe.

Even as a business owner, “perfect” was pretty stupid. I’m pretty sure I spent (and still do spend) way too much time making someone else’s blog or promotional email copy absolutely amazing, knowing full well no one really reads that stuff.

My ROI is in the toilet.

So, yeah, “Good enough” is sounding like a goal I should get behind, even if I’m not so happy about it. Approach school like I would approach cleaning a bathroom, closet or, god forbid, the junk drawer, where “good enough” is still a few rungs up the ladder compared to their current state. In fact, with “good enough,” I’d probably be giddy.

Side note: how many times do I say “giddy” in a blog post? I think it’s a lot. That tells me I should probably sleep or get a thesaurus. I’ve got more reading in the morning.

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