You Need to Stop Being a Perfectionist Teacher Right Now

You Need to Stop Being a Perfectionist Teacher Right Now

Episode one of The Teaching Space podcast explores why teachers and trainers often have a perfectionist streak and how to overcome it.

Podcast Episode 1 Transcript

Hello and welcome to the first episode of The Teaching Space podcast. I'm your host Martine, and it's great to have you here with me.

Because it's the first episode I thought it might be a good idea to give you a bit of background on me and tell you what my intentions for the show are.

About Me

So, as I said my name's Martine, and I work at a Further Education College in Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

I'm a teacher trainer; I work with people in various industries to help them get into teaching. I'm also a Google Certified Trainer. Part of my role is to work with more experienced teachers and help them use technology in the classroom more effectively.

About the Podcast

I've been wanting to start a teaching podcast for a very long time and specifically I wanted to aim the show at teachers or trainers.

I believe there is an enormous crossover between teaching and training and I didn't want to specifically aim at perhaps people in further education. I want to look at teaching as a whole. That's why I intend to do with this show.

My plan is for episodes to be short so you can listen to a few episodes on a commute or during a break at work.

The show will be weekly. However, I will be taking breaks over school holidays. I appreciate that, depending on where you live in the world, our school holidays might not be the same, but I will let you know when there is going to be an episode and when that isn't. So, that's the plan.

Let's get to the meat of the episode.

Perfectionist Teachers and Trainers

Today's show is called You Need to Stop Being a Perfectionist Teacher right now.

It's not surprising that most teachers and trainers have a perfectionist streak.

We are under a lot of pressure. We're under pressure from all learners to know everything. There's also pressure from colleagues senior managers. If you teach young children, then there's pressure from parents.

It's a tough job.

Positive and Negative Perfectionism 

There are, of course, good and bad aspects of being a perfectionist.

Regarding the good aspects, everyone should strive to be as good as they possibly can be.

However, the bad aspects of perfectionism often outweigh the good, and they can very quickly lead to stress and burn out.

My Journey to Perfectionism

If I reflect on my journey to perfectionism, I am reminded of a time when I was a young student in a maths lesson. I'll be honest; I really didn't get on very well with maths. I had a genuine fear of my time's tables.

I can remember completing my homework in a yellow maths exercise book. If I made a mistake in the book, rather than cross out the mistake, I would rip the page of the exercise book out and start again.

This was a problem because schools don't like it when you waste resources.

I can remember my maths teacher putting a comment on my book saying "this exercise book appears to have gone on a diet; see me".

That's my first memory of my perfectionist streak.

Today's Perfectionism 

Lately, I've worked out that trying to be a perfectionist in teaching is, well, impossible. We've always got areas for development. We've always got something we can improve on.

Furthermore, what sort of message does it send to your learners; probably not a great one.

The other aspect of this, of course, is the effect trying to be perfect has on your mental health.

I have four suggestions to help you try and overcome your perfectionism. It would be great if you could try one of them over the coming week and let me know how you get on.

Four Suggestions for Overcoming Perfectionism

1. Delegate Classroom Tasks

You don't have to do everything yourself!

Here's an example:

I need to supply a number of Chromebooks to learners in my introduction to teaching session. The sessions occur for me twice a week, and usually, I need to supply for between five and seven Chromebooks. Everyone else brings their own devices.

The Chromebooks are actually quite heavy, and unfortunately, we don't have a supply very close to the classrooms that I work in.

Rather than lug those Chromebooks to and from the classroom I ask the learners to help me. They are more than willing to help out. This cuts approximately 10 minutes off my preparation for each session.

While I appreciate that not all jobs can be delegated, there are certainly a couple that can be. You simply do not have to do everything yourself!

2. Set Time Limits For Everything You Do

Parkinson's Law suggests that activities expand to fill the time allocated to them. Meetings are a fantastic example.

If you set yourself a time limit to complete a task then once that time is up the task has to be done. It might not be perfect, but it's done.

If this sounds like something that could help you, then explore the Pomodoro Technique.

3. Don't Reinvent the Wheel; Collaborate With Colleagues

Share resources. It makes no sense for you to create a brand new session from scratch teaching something that somebody has already taught.

Yes, you should absolutely put your own spin on it, but if something else exists, you should start there.

4. Reframe Perfectionism

Perfectionism is not a positive trait. Perfectionism doesn't encourage growth. We all need to grow in our roles as teachers and trainers. Therefore, perfectionism isn't a good thing.

There are tons of resources online all about growth mindset, and if you've not read Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, I highly recommend it. I have listened to it as an audiobook, and it's really a very important piece of reading for teachers and trainers.

We tend to focus our growth mindset approach on our learners, but actually, we need to focus it on ourselves as well. It's time to revisit growth mindset.

Wrap Up

That's it for me today. I hope I've given you something to think about.

Please join The Teaching Space Staff Room on Facebook by clicking the button below.

I hope you've enjoyed this first episode of The Teaching Space podcast and I hope you'll join me next time.

You Need to Stop Being a Perfectionist Teacher Right Now