By Rebecca Thomas
‘We expect teachers to reach unattainable goals with inadequate resources. The miracle is this: they often do.”
Awash with messages in the media for teachers to be amazing, the pressure on our educators to be heroes is becoming all consuming. There are so many blogs, videos, memes, and quotes designed to big the profession up, to seek perfectionism, it becomes ingrained for some that we can never admit defeat.
I’ve been trying to find a profession like ours to compare it to. A profession that is never complete, a profession where their best is never good enough, at times it sounds and feels like an elite sports arena.
From a distance I watch educators run after the mirage and see it fade away as they get closer.
‘Be a champion’, ‘achieve higher’, ‘go faster for longer’, ‘don’t be afraid to fail’, ‘be a champion,’, ‘be extraordinary’.
The reality is, just as professional athletes struggle when they have a reduced sense of accomplishment, so do teachers.
Expectations to be 'practically perfect in every way', is weighing heavily against the speed of change, constant change.
Perfectionism is a complex concept, in fact, psychologists recognise that there are actually two forms of perfectionism: adaptive and maladaptive. Only one of these is conducive to long-term career success.
At times our landscape has an unhealthy setting of unrealistic standards combined with criticism and low self-esteem. Psychologists call this a state of maladaptive perfectionism, and yes this state can lead to depression, stress and anxiety.
Adaptive perfectionism means that a person thrives on doing some, but crucially not all, things well. It means that you get so much satisfaction from the achievements you have made that you are able to tolerate the things that didn’t go so well.
So how can we weave this mindset into our profession?
Usually, our blogs come with an answer, some hope or a game, but tonight it just comes with a nod. A nod that we acknowledge the struggles you face and appreciate that you are tired.
And if you come across a *Wobbly Gonk next week, be kind.
*Wobbly Gonk: Kind, gentle creatures who nod off in a meeting or lesson. They nod at least ﬁve times before they actually fall asleep. Harmlessly, they rest until the end of the session. This power nap is necessary for them to recharge; they mean no disrespect to the person hosting/running the meeting/lesson.