Slice of Life: This Post Is Not Perfect!

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I thought about starting a blog for at least two years before I finally took the plunge with Reading to the Core. Many questions plagued me before I started. What would I write about? Would anyone read my ramblings? But the loudest and most persistent question was this: What if it’s not perfect?

Perfection paralysis (not my phrase, but I can’t remember where I first read it), I’ve since discovered, is quite common among writers and bloggers. And it seems that teachers with blogs are the most seriously afflicted. Many teachers are perfectionists to begin with, and the thought of sharing a piece of writing that might not be perfect with the whole world is sometimes more than we can take.

Here’s the thing about perfection paralysis, though. Paralysis is not a good thing. We are meant to move and learn and grow. This lesson has played out in my life a number of times over the last year, most recently during my week at the TCRWP Reading Institute.

Last week I shared the story of my trek over the Brooklyn Bridge with Dayna Wells. When I got back to my hotel that night, it occurred to me that our adventure was an apt metaphor for the situation many teachers find themselves in these days. Neither of Dayna or I had ever been to the Brooklyn Bridge, and the windy, rainy weather was less than perfect. But we ventured out anyway.

We took a risk that paid off not because we were lucky, but because we set ourselves up for success. First of all, we were together, supporting each other along the way. We had several tools at our disposal, namely the apps on our phones. We did head off in the wrong direction at the start, but our instincts helped us realize our mistake and we quickly turned around. And finally, we had a positive attitude, and set off ready to succeed.

Today, teachers around the country are at the foot of the bridge into the future. We have many tools and resources at our disposal to help us on this journey. We have instincts and knowledge to help us know when we veer off the right path. It’s up to us to bring a positive attitude to this challenge; one that will help us when we get discouraged. It’s critical, though, that we support one another along the way. In her keynote that kicked off the Institute, Lucy Calkins urged us all “to lift up the level of the people” we work with. We have to help one another improve our teaching so our students can learn and grow at higher levels.

Starting my blog and becoming part of the amazing community of teacher-bloggers on Two Writing Teachers, Poetry Friday, Twitter, and more has lifted the level of my teaching in ways I could never have imagined two years ago. So as we begin a new school year, if you have perfection paralysis about joining Twitter, starting a blog, or even trying a new unit, let it go. You may have a false start, and there will be bumps along the way. But the view from the top of the bridge is spectacular!

Photo via everystockphoto.com
Photo via everystockphoto.com

Thank you, as always, to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for hosting Slice of Life each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

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5 thoughts on “Slice of Life: This Post Is Not Perfect!

  1. Well, I think Anne Lamott wrote in Bird by Bird that “perfectionism is the enemy of creativity.” And any sort of paralysis is unhealthy, I agree with you. I have been attempting to move my entombed writing life out of what I call “inertia.” Like I just stopped and can’t get started again.
    In my case, I don’t think it is perfectionism. Maybe I’m not holding it right, as in “Wow, I get to write every day….” and looking at it as a treat. Because, frankly sometimes it is really WORK. And sometimes there’s not much left over after the day at work.
    I like the clear voice in your blog and the honest voice of this post.

    If anyone wants to elaborate on how we lift up the teaching of our colleagues, I’d love to hear more on that….

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  2. But it’s close to perfect, Catherine! Ha! I loved the story last week, and that you added to it & connected to our journey with it. Hope your week has started well! And happy you started the blog!

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  3. Catherine,

    This so speaks to me! My current goal for myself is to be willing to come to a decision in my work life and act on it more quickly. Reflecting on this goal I realize I’ve actually done this recently in many areas of my life. I so appreciated your suggestion to walk the bridge that evening despite rain and wind and a low cell phone battery! Courage and willingness to jump in can indeed serve us well in our teaching lives too!

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  4. Catherine,
    You are so good! Digging into the why, looking for patterns, not settling for the obvious – what a “perfect” close read of your fun trek across the bridge. Your continued reflection and your “model” do confirm that we must live and read our lives each and every day. The risks we model as adults are similar to those risks that we ask of our readers and writers and there is no time to wait for “PERFECT” to get started. We are already in the midst of our journey . . . no time to turn around, detour, or stop – – – full speed ahead!

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  5. I love reading about you and Dayna taking the Brooklyn Bridge risk together. This line: “It’s up to us to bring a positive attitude to this challenge; one that will help us when we get discouraged” nails it! I’m so grateful and honored to be a part of a community than includes you and a world of teacher writers so willing to put themselves out and be brave even when paralyzed by perfectionism.

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