Lesley's Lessons and Learnings

Risk Taking Does Not Fit With Perfection

Posted on: December 30, 2010

"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

Taken from:  Flikr Photostream Faerie Girl

It’s the end of August. Time for a new school year. My maternity leave is over. Back to school with lots of ‘new’ things – new administration, new grade, new students. Change is in the air. I knew returning to school after a maternity leave was going to be difficult. As I was gearing up for a new school year and mentally preparing to leave my two babies when returning to work, I have to admit, I was a bit stressed.

I am a huge perfectionist and always have been. I have high expectations for myself and always have. Throughout grade school and university, I always needed to strive for top marks and beat myself up over anything less. Was this a bad thing? At the time, I didn’t think so. It led me to work hard for what I wanted to achieve and to achieve the success I had dreamed of.

On the first PD Day, my new principal showed a short video clip entitled “Two Questions” inspired from Dan Pink’s new book, Drive. One of the two questions focused on in the video was “What’s Your Sentence?” So I got thinking, “What is going to be the one question that drives my year?” More broad than that, what is going to drive my teaching? In conversations with my principal, George Couros, about my control and perfectionism, he suggested, “Risk Taking Does Not Fit With Perfection”. Instantly, I knew it fit. Something I wanted to work on was being more of a risk taker so that I can model it for my students. Being a risk taker to me means trying new things and learning from my mistakes. Knowing that everything will not be perfect is okay. The process of learning never ends and is even heightened as we make mistakes. This included learning about using technology, my Smart Board, our classroom blog, e-portfolios, and the list goes on. To be honest, these new technologies worried a perfectionist like me.

So… how’s it going? I must say, it has been pretty great! I decided to jump right in, take on these new challenges, and try to live my life more as a risk taker. I love using my Smart Board to actively engage my students in their learning, am actively blogging, and have a “Blogger of the Week” program in my classroom. We have our e-portfolios set up and will begin adding to them in the New Year! Further to that, I am learning about social media and am so amazed and excited to have connections around the world. Thanks to a great blog post written by one of my students and the many comments made on it, George connected me with a teacher living in Jakarta, Indonesia, as an expert for a research topic in my Social Studies program. We Skyped in with him and learned so much about the Muslim culture and celebrations. We have a great video of our conversation to look back on embedded in another post on our blog! What an unbelievable experience for my students as well as myself. I have recently created a Twitter account and am looking forward to the connections possible through there and the wealth of knowledge, information, and ideas through the great networks of educators!

The second question in Dan Pink’s video was “Was I better today than yesterday?” What a great reflective question to ask oneself as a means to continually strive for improvement. I am always looking for ways to be a better teacher, communicator, staff member, and leader in our school community. I think it’s important to reflect on my practice and ensure that I’m meeting the needs of my students the best I can every single day. Being able to show my students that I’m willing to take risks and learn along the way has been an important part of my year.

While it has been a challenging year for me trying to balance everything, I must admit I like a challenge! It has also been one of the most rewarding years for me (and it’s only 4 months into the school year!) as I feel I have shown growth already and I have committed to bettering myself, becoming a risk taker, and am trying to be more reflective along the way.

If you don’t already have a sentence, now is a great time to ask yourself, “What’s My Sentence?” and reflect on your day with the question, “Was I better today than yesterday?”

Check out the video below:

Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.


8 Responses to "Risk Taking Does Not Fit With Perfection"

The hardest lesson for some of my highest achieving students to learn is that not being perfect is not only okay, it is preferable because it means you are being challenged. If one is always perfect one needs to find new challenges to stretch one’s knowledge or ability.

Great post and I like the questions we should reflect on. We r starting our new school year in Feb here in NZ so very timely for me to reflect on this. As teachers we are very privileged to be apart of our students lives. I so love my job and taking risks alongside my students. I agree with your principal perfection doesn’t fit with this! Have a great 2011 @melainiem8

I can certainly identify with your thinking! What a great post. I can’t wait to read more.

Great post! And congrats on stepping out of your comfort zone. I too am a perfectionist, so I know how the risk-taking thing doesn’t really go with it. But as a relatively new blogger and risk-taker, I just want to encourage you to keep going. The journey is definitely worth it!

I haven’t seen the Daniel Pink video yet, but it’s now on my to-watch list, before school starts. And I look forward to reading more of your posts!

Hi Lesley,

What a thoughtful, inspiring post. Thank you for your honesty.

One of the organizers for the Reform Symposium showed me this video by Daniel Pink today. I thought you find might find it interesting as well:

RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Has George told you about the Reform Symposium? Worth while checking out if you have time.

Looking forward to sharing & hearing more in the future about striving for betterment.

Happy New Year!

– Ian


I am so proud of how you have grown in the short time that I have known you 🙂 This is driven by your own desire to become better and without great risk, there is no great reward. You will find some days that the new learning will be overwhelming, as I do often, but you will see it continually pay off with your students and your own professional growth.

Keep up the great work and I look forward to learning more about you in your blog. Continue leading the way!

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate the encouragement and remarks on my first post. I have been teaching for 5 years and it still amazes me how much things have changed. We have new technology to enhance student learning and assist our teaching, but it all comes back to doing the best job we can with our kids everyday and connecting with every one of them. Being willing to learn and try new things is essential for me to continually strive to be better in all areas of life.


great post! It’s so hard as teachers do let go of perfection and take risks – i struggle with the same thing every day.

i love the 2 questions that you pose. I think that’s something I am going to have to think about going back into my classroom in the new year. I’m not quite sure what my question is. But I do know that this year has been an exceptionally difficult one, and going forward I want to keep asking myself, “Was I better today than yesterday.” in response to your post and the link you provided I went out and bought the book “Drive” and maybe through reading it I will be able to figure out what my question is.

Thank you for being willing to put yourself out there and share!

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December 2010
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