Monday, May 10, 2010

Teach Your Children Well

Katie* is a perfectionist, which isn't usually much of a problem, because as luck would have it, Katie is practically perfect. She's the oldest child in my Pre-K classroom, easily ready to move on to Kindergarten where she will spend another in a certain endless progression of years at the top of her class. Her hair, yellow and sleek as corn silk, flows down her back. When she runs, I expect to see a camera crew in hot pursuit, capturing the lustrous beauty for a Baby Breck commercial. Her skin is peachy perfection and her eyes, blue as the sky. Another teacher at my school calls her Jennifer Aniston, but when I tried to find a childhood photo of Jennifer Aniston to give you an idea of Katie's beauty, turns out Jennifer Aniston was no Katie.

I like being employed, so I won't post her actual picture, but this may very well be her sister. The homely one.

Katie's special talent, as if she needs one on top of all her other natural gifts, is art. The spectrum of artistic abilities in my room ranges from mad spastic scribbling to, well, Katie. She has an unusual eye and the intense focus to stick with a project until she reaches the goal she's envisioned. Which brings us to the problem.

Katie is a perfectionist.

When Katie's hands won't produce a perfect replica of what her mind has created, she falls apart. I try to assure her that her work is wonderful and she should feel proud, but she's too busy flogging herself to hear.

This is a picture of her most recent hysteria-provoking failure.

Did I mention this is Pre-K? And this, in case you haven't seen Pre-K work lately, is AWESOME! The butterflies had just emerged in our Science Center, and I'm telling you, she nailed them. She even tried to spell it, in perfectly formed little letters. But when she was finished, she threw the paper on the floor and kicked it, crying hysterically. It wasn't good enough. She wasn't good enough.

I got my Googler warmed up and tried to see if I could find some answers to Katie's problem. Lurking in the text of the very first website, I discovered something I hadn't expected to find: myself. Each of the ten traits they listed had my name neatly typed all over them, from the tendency to be particularly self-critical to the low self-esteem to the oddly paradoxical penchant for procrastination.

It made me wonder: Am I teaching my kids more than I intend? If so, I'm sorry Katie.

*Katie is not her real name. Her real name is much more beautiful and perfectly suited to her.


Soozietoone said...

Wow -- I share those three traits with you! While you may be a perfectionist, I've seen you with lots of kids. What I observe you passing on to them is that they are perfect the way they are.


Anonymous said...

Boy did I need to hear that. My daughter just went to her 8th grade "recognition" and was one of two who weren't "recognized" for anything other that showing up. She was kind of upset but after reading your blog, I see that we train our children to be stressed and anxiety ridden. I'm going to give her a hug and "recognize" her for being the best - at being herself. Thanks and have a good day!