A Search for Perfection

I have a student who because of his personality and the program he is planning to attend is demanding of himself that he earns an A+ in my class. He is a delightful student who regularly helps his peers if they miss a class or a struggling. The problem? He is so hard on himself. When we discuss difficult topics in class he is worried and stressed about learning them for tests. On test day he is worried and stressed about doing well. When he makes mistakes on labs he worries about it. If his class average goes down half a percent I will often get an email (all my students have access to their gradebook).

I routinely, when I see him worry (f2f) or get his emails (online class), I tell him he will be fine, that he will get the grade he needs to enter the program. I remind him how hard it is for adults to go back to school, especially when they have been out for a long time.

I see myself and my cohort in him. I am incredibly fortunate to have him in my class; not only because he is the kind of student every teacher is fortunate to have, but because I can see us in him. I make the same demands on myself. I stress about obtaining perfection in my classes. I am demanding A+’s from myself as, way down the road, I hope to get my PhD and I know top grades are demanded.

Who is to blame for all this? Is it the programs that require an A+ to enter, whether warranted or not? Is it the student who, being out of school for so long, knows the sacrifices that they, and their families, are making so that they can attend school and achieve their dream? I suspect it is both and more.

It is important for students to remember that “it’s about progress, not perfection”  and while doing well can be very important, you should do your best, being present, and recognize that sometimes you will not get the A+.

Now I just need to practice what I preach

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