As a first grader who wanted to do things just right, I took seriously my teacher’s instructions to write neatly. I took her instructions so seriously that I continually erased and rewrote every imperfect letter, working to get each one absolutely perfect. At first, my teacher could not understand why I never got my work done in time. When she realized what was happening, she talked to my parents and through them conveyed the message that enough was enough. I should write each letter only one time and not erase any.
Having my right to erase taken from me felt scary at first. What if a letter wasn’t perfect? But I soon realized I didn’t need an eraser to do a good job with my work.
As an adult student who has recently returned to school, I still feel that tendency to want to do things perfectly. Wanting to do my best can be a good trait—the Bible teaches we should do all things heartily, as if we’re doing them for the Lord—but when taken to an extreme, it can cripple us.
Perhaps your students have the same tendency, or perhaps you see it in yourself as you juggle your teaching responsibilities, your relationships, your time with God, and any other of the multitude parts of life that bombard you. You want to do all of it, and you want to do all of it well, but it seems no earthly being could perform such a task.
One of the professors at the Christian college I attend recently gave a helpful pearl of wisdom. He said something like this:
“Do your best, all things considered. Yes, you could do better in my Hebrew class if that were the only class you had. Yes, you could do better in biology class if that were your only responsibility. But schoolwork is not the only thing that’s important in your life. Your family and friendships are important. Your relationship and time spent with God are important. Do your best with your schoolwork, but let it be your best when all things are considered, and don’t feel guilty for what you have to let go.”
Maybe you can pass this advice on to those of your students who try so hard to get it right that they hurt themselves and their enjoyment of school. Maybe you can take this advice to heart for yourself.
Yes, do your best. But make it your best, all things considered.
CONTRIBUTOR: Lucinda J Miller