Thursday, May 28, 2009

Compare and contrast: perfectionism edition

Since I was in the classroom today anyway, Scooter's teacher gave me a preview of his standardized test scores. In both math and reading, he's above the district average (which is above the national average), though the math was just barely ahead. As the teacher told me, Scooter completed that test in 8 minutes. "Of course," he retorted, "I'd rather have a student finish in 8 minutes and still meet benchmark than finish it in 5 minutes and miss them all--as one of mine did."

Then during Scooter's rotation to my center, he quickly finished the phonetics worksheet. I told him that he could color it; much of the classroom is packed up or not in its usual place, making it difficult to find even blank paper, so it was easiest to have them color in the various pictures. He said he didn't want to. "Then you can sit there," I suggested (which doesn't come across well on the screen, but this was a playful exchange). "OK" was his reply.

I turned to the teacher's assistant and opined, "He's like me in so very many ways, but I had a real desire to please authority and he's fine just doing his own thing." Turns out this is not uncommon--in art class, for example, he's happy to sit and do nothing when he finishes the day's project instead of starting a new one, as is usually suggested. On the plus side--at least he's not being disruptive.

Except when it leads to the two of us butting heads, I actually love that he has this security in who he is and is willing to assert himself. Even more, I'm happy that he has not fallen completely prey to the pervasive perfectionism I have had to consciously wean myself from. This is not to say that he doesn't have moments when he obsesses over getting things just right, but it is also true that he has brought home many an incomplete or incorrect math worksheet because he got bored and there was something more exciting to attend to.

(I, on the other hand, can still remember the one mistake I made in our math workbook in kindergarten. Seriously. I can still picture the worksheet.)

We will need to monitor this to make sure that he learns to focus on required work even when it doesn't particularly interest him. Maybe I'll be singing a different tune then. But for the time being, I'm very happy he doesn't share this particular characteristic with me.

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