So there’s this book, Perfect, by Max Amato. It’s written for children, of course, but it’s really an ideal book for adults, too. Well at least it was for me.
In the story, the eraser has a beautiful vision of what perfect should be: clean pages. Spotless. White. The pencil, on the other hand, as you might guess from looking at the cover, gets his ideas from making a mess. Squiggly lines, shading, drawing, words.
And they fight. And argue. And back and forth the eraser cleans up the pencil’s “mess” while the pencil plans his next attack on eraser’s idealistic world of clean.
This book really has a message of friendship and how two opposites can find common ground to become friends.
But the message was also deeper for me. How can I let go of my quest for perfection in all that I do and embrace a little more messiness? What would happen if I danced with the messy, and didn’t be overly self-critical of my mistakes?
As a teacher, there is always a feeling (at least for me) that you must know all the answers. And there are so many questions. Like 567 questions every two minutes. Not just questions from kids, but thoughts and judgements to be haggled with in your mind. Questions from should I just let him continue to pull the snot to see how far it goes because, hey…I’m kind of curious too! to What would happen if I just let the two of them argue it out without intervening? to Shit! I forgot to get what I need ready for math and I have to pee and call that parent and check in with that student who looks off today and (again) I have to pee real bad and it’s ten minutes before I let them out for recess and can I hold it 10 more minutes…but…didn’t I read that as you get older holding it in is bad and did I remember to put salad dressing on my salad for lunch and I wish I had something sweet right now and why is she putting the OTHER child’s hair in her mouth?!?!?!…. and on and on and on….It can be exhausting. And it is. So for a perfectionist, it feels like an eraser must be in your pocket to clean up everything real quick.
Where does it end?
What I’m learning is that it doesn’t. But it is in the way I look at things.
We’ll reread Perfect again this week. And maybe we’ll collect some data. And analyze it to smithereens…because isn’t that what’s important these days in education?
Maybe we’ll put it in a spreadsheet, too.
Or maybe we’ll talk more about the pencil and the eraser and how they became friends. How, in the end, they actually grew together instead of apart. And how that might look in kindergarten land.
As for now, I’ll erase the thoughts that I need a perfectly clean house and ignore the dustball growing ever-so-big in the corner.