Slice of Life March Challenge: March 20th., 2014 – My “perfect” girls

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The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Two Writing Teachers .  

I have a group of girls I call my “perfects” – highly motivated, Type A, very together,   always on task and on time.  They play Spring and Fall sports – A Team & travel, naturally – yet never miss an assignment, or need to ask for an extention.  Their work is always beautifully done, and their projects are works of art.    “Perfect” students like these should make my teacher  heart sing…but I worry about them, instead.  Because these perfect students seem to come in one variety only – girls.

Oh, I have highly motivated, Type A boys, too – star athletes and students as well.  But I can count on these guys to make some knuckle head move in the hallway, to get silly about this or that, to be sixth graders with all the goofiness that that implies.

That is never the case with my “perfects”, however.  They never seem to let their guards down.  A 98 on a test (out of 100, that is) is cause for tears and anxiety.  They need to think twice before raising their hands, because…what if the answer is not quite what the teacher is “looking for”, or even, gasp – wrong!  They always seem to be watching to gauge the teacher’s reactions, as though to calibrate their answers, their behaviors to what they think we expect.   Often, I see little spontaneity in these girls – and they seem to be watching each other, too.  Measuring each other, judging themselves.

I worry about these girls – I worry that this heightened anxiety and need for perfection will be turned against themselves.  Who can be perfect all the time? It’s impossible to be perfect all the time.  And, who wants to be always just so?  At this very moment, lunch recess, I have three young ladies recopying their math homework so that it “looks neater”. Really? Why don’t you play a game? I ask. Like the guys at the back who are deep into raucous  card games and Apples to Apples. It’s recess, for crying out loud!!

I worry about these girls – I worry that they may harm themselves, start monitoring their food intakes (some of them are already talking about “being fat”, which alarms me), get into controlling relationships…. I worry about them.  We live in a time of empowered women and  limitless possibilities.  When bossiness is celebrated. And yet….

I worry about my “perfect” girls.

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21 thoughts on “Slice of Life March Challenge: March 20th., 2014 – My “perfect” girls

  1. It is a worry especially when you see ads on TV or in magazines that show ant tell you what “perfect” should look like. It is just setting impressionable people up for a fall. Me, I’ve always thought “perfect” is boring. Being a little flawed is much more interesting and exciting. Hope your “perfects” come to realize this.

  2. You are absolutely right. My school has a high achieving magnet attached to the regular ed program and this is very big problem. I wonder if girls are more prone to this kind of problem. I wonder if it is fueled further by competitiveness. I wonder what we can do as teachers to counteract some of that. It’s almost like you have to acknowledge balance!

  3. I agree, this is a great cause for worry. I wonder if we, as parents, as teachers, media, etc., do we push this type of personality on them? We need to encourage them and somehow let them know that it’s okay to make mistakes – that’s how we learn.

  4. You have every right to be worried — this is a segment of our student population often overlooked because they cause no obvious problems. Their harm is internal like a maturing pressure cooker. I’m glad you shared about your ‘perfects’ today; I’ll be reflecting on kids I know who fit this description…and start the conversation. b

  5. Even when I read the title, I knew what you were going to write about, Tara. I had them too, they are still there in school now. Some comes from our culture, being a ‘good’ girl, some comes from high demands from parents. At my school there isn’t even competition for the grades & we still have those ‘perfect’ girls. Have you read “Winter Girls” by Laurie Halse Anderson. There is some of the perfection seeking in that. We’re having a book fair now during conferences & I’ve been helping a little, watched a young girl act so serious with her mom when choosing just the “perfect” book. They don’t have to worry about money, she could have chosen many & then abandoned what didn’t work, but they really took a long time choosing just one. It was telling about the expectation. The one thing we know that changes is when they go on our trips, learn to ‘get down & dirty’, run & play, etc. I wish that message could be given to everyone, to let the children be children. Thanks for bringing this up-would make a terrific article!

  6. I agree with Linda that this would make a great article– it’s refreshing to hear this concern that I have thought so much about from a teacher’s perspective (besides my mom’s of course). The most important concern is obviously the health and safety of your “perfects,” but I also worry about how the strive for perfection in school is affecting creative thought. If, as you say, the “perfect” students are always answering questions how they expect a teacher might approve, then when will they learn how to answer a question based on their own personal opinion?
    Thanks for sharing– it provides a lot to think about.

  7. I worry about them….and I know them…too well. I was indeed one of them…and I had indeed one of them…and I have some of them…they are hesitant risk takers in grade school because they NEVER want to make a mistake! They need us to reach out to them and show them that perfection is not a goal nor an objective….I learned that late in the game!

  8. This was great Tara. You had me thinking you were going one way with this slice then another and then back to my original thought. I really liked the intrigue in the few paragraphs. I worry about those kids that have to be perfect too. I think being so perfect can stifle their creativity. Great slice.

  9. I have a niece who is one of those sixth grade girls. She is now a freshman and has left school due to severe depression. She is doing some work at home, but will be seeking another school for the fall. The drive for perfection can be difficult and lead to some serious long term problems. It is something parents of girls need to hear about. What better way than from a trusted teacher.

  10. I think you’re right to be worried and that your “perfects” are lucky to have your keen eye looking out for them. Can you slip some lessons into your work that might help them start to see that they don’t need to hold themselves to impossible standards, that they go farther if they breathe more deeply, laugh a little louder, relax their guard from time to time?

  11. Oh! This is so true: I worry about them. We live in a time of empowered women and limitless possibilities. When bossiness is celebrated. And yet….I worry about my “perfect” girls.” I do too. I teach my girls practice makes permanent and not perfect but I have one girls who just falls apart if she can’t get something the first time. Like you I don’t want them to live a world where they fear taking a chance, having fun and living life. Yet, at times I wish I could put some of her Type A into some of my other students. It’s a hard balance between teaching them to be organized, goal-oriented, assertive yet daring, relaxed. Great post, you really have me thinking.

  12. This is a very insightful post. Although I’m a boy, I used to be one of those “perfect” kids. Just recently I learned to stop that and be more my real self. It’s been really great for me.

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