More often than not, we get tied down by the idea of perfection that prevents us from making progress. This year, from this moment right now, let’s make a vow of not striving for being perfect but always moving forward with purpose.
This past year has shown us our incredible power to imagine, adapt and survive. I am not just talking about the adults; the way children and young adults have adjusted is quite remarkable. The past year was not perfect, but we have endured the imperfect times.
So how can we apply this mindset for all times to come? The following are a few ways to practice this everyday.
Celebrate progress over perfection
It is important to celebrate the little actions of students everyday. Celebrating progress does not mean hiding away what we do not know, it simply means to celebrate what we know today that we didn’t know yesterday. In the past year we have seen numerous examples where learning, working and getting through the day has been all about making progress and not being perfect.
More on process, less on result
Life is more like a road trip and less like a commute to work. It’s not the destination but the journey that counts. If you have ever taken a road trip with your family or friends then you will know that the most enjoyable parts of the trip are the times that’s spent on the road, figuring out which fork at the end of a street one should take. Students will enjoy learning if it’s a process and not so much as an end-result seeking task.
Not failing but learning
When we are young we are not afraid of failing but somewhere down the line as we grow up, we start playing safe because we get penalized for not succeeding. Practice saying this to students, ‘You tried and it didn’t work. Now you know that this method will not work. Let’s try another method.’ Reward them for trying, even if they have failed. This is an important teaching that will keep on giving their entire life.
Make mistakes, take chances
‘Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.’ Do you remember this quote from Ms. Frizzle of The Magic School Bus? If we do not take chances, we lose the opportunity to grow. Never penalize children for making a mistake. At the same time identify a mistake as a mistake and work with them to figure out what they can do differently next time. Encourage them to try new things and don’t let the idea of ‘making mistakes’ deter them.
Start using ‘not yet’
Words matter and so how we frame our sentences in our everyday life has bigger implications. When you see students struggling with a particular task, say it out loud to them, ‘You haven’t mastered it yet’. Encourage them to say ‘I don’t know it yet’ versus ‘I don’t know it.’ It makes a big difference when they repeatedly hear it or they themselves practice saying it, because now they can believe that there is a path forward to learn and grow.
This year, we are encouraging you to set aside resolutions and give yourself, your students, your family and your friends a giant high-five for making it through a year – a year about which we will tell stories someday that will begin with ‘Remember that year…’
But for today let’s celebrate the possibilities. Happy New Year.