Perfection is the enemy of progress.
I thought about this expression by French philosopher Voltaire after T broke his four-week streak of perfect spelling tests.
T’s teacher recently introduced Words of the Week; six words given on Mondays that he practices for a test on Fridays.
T crushed the first four weeks and we posted his tests proudly on our fridge.
Last Friday, he broke his streak and came home with a 5 out of 6.
The husband gave me a faux sad look and I told T he still did great and we posted the test up proudly with the others on the fridge.
The moment made me think of this video.
Writer Dan Heath muses that we often obsess on things that don’t go well and he encourages us to obsess instead about things that are going well and to scale up these bright spots.
I’m gonna keep it real. The following Saturday morning, I walked by the fridge and looked at that damn word “Us” that T misspelled.
It irked me because spelling was one of the bright spots in T’s up and down school journey.
Thanks to his teacher’s creative ways to encourage kids – such as creating a keychain of words to practice in a fun way – T is motivated to do well.
He even used it as a bedtime delay tactic last week when he got out of bed and said he needed to practice his words.
As his parent, I want him to have many chances to feel good about school and himself.
Then I realized how silly I was being. T was doing well in spelling and the hubby and I are gonna build on his progress and try to spread his enjoyment and motivation into other areas of school, such as reading.
And I walked away from the fridge.
Don’t get me wrong: doing well on tests is important. But I want T to focus on doing his best, learning and growing, rather than perfection.
The latter is focused on a fixed state in time; the former is focused on continual change and progress, also known as growth mindset.
As life with T reminds us, every day is a new chance to try again.
This Monday, T’s teacher announced that Words of the Week would be a review of the 30 words from the last five weeks; she would pick six random words for the test.
The gauntlet was thrown. Our family’s honour was on the line. Cue Rocky training music.
Jokes aside, we kept it chill with our no pressure approach of practicing two nights a week, including before the test.
Then we put it out of our minds and relaxed.
This past week, we also made adjustments to his medication – increasing the afternoon dose of methylphenidate – and as anticipated, there were a few bumpy moments.
By Friday, we were ready for the weekend.
As the hubby and I unpacked his school bag last night, we saw his spelling test: 6/6!
We cheered loudly and told T we’d celebrate with his dinner of choice. He picked McDonalds.
There was another surprise in his bag: a beautiful painted art he made in class (pictured up top).
I held it up against the glow of the golden hour sun and the moment felt like a bright spot in our week.
Every bump along the way from Monday to a Friday vanished into the past.
We complemented T on his work and he smiled and shouted, “It’s a masterpiece!”