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Classroom Management: STOP Being a Perfectionist

Janelle Cox

Nothing is ever good enough for a perfectionist teacher. You’d think that being hyper-focused and detail-oriented would have its benefits. However, teachers who become obsessive may run into some problems. Being perfect is impossible, because as you know, no one is perfect. When you are a perfectionist, you run the risk of feeling burned out. You may suffer mental and physical fatigue from always striving to do everything flawlessly. Oftentimes, teachers who are perfectionists think they are doing something good, when in reality they are just hurting themselves.

Many teachers become perfectionists because as a teacher, it’s essential that you use classroom management to run a tight ship in your classroom. With so many students to manage at one time, it’s easy to be held to unrealistic high standards. A teacher’s classroom management routine can be quite rigid, and when you work under these kinds of conditions every day, that’s what often leads teachers to become perfectionists. If this sounds like the kind of teacher that you are, then you’ll be happy hear that letting go of these kinds of tendencies is OK and you’ll still be an effective teacher. Here are five classroom management tips to squash your perfectionistic ways.

Adopt a Different Classroom Management Mindset

The first step to avoiding perfectionism is to be self-aware. If you won’t admit that you are a perfectionist, then how can you ever change? Once you know that you are trying to be a perfectionist, then you can adopt a different mindset. Think about the last time that you caught yourself trying to do something perfect. Then think about all of the things that went wrong during your pursuit of perfectionism. Once you stop and think about the negative impact from that experience, it will help you to adopt a more realistic outlook of what that experience should’ve looked like. Maybe you’ll realize that you did well enough and that will be enough to satisfy you.

Build Your Self-Esteem

It is said that people with low self-esteem tend to set unreasonably high standards for themselves. Nothing that they say or do is ever good enough for them, therefore they are never able to give themselves credit when credit is due. When you lack self-esteem and your standards are unrealistic, then you’re essentially setting yourself up for failure. However, when you let go of these high standards that you’ve set for yourself, you’ll be able to build up your self-esteem. The key to having good self-confidence is to have realistic expectations for yourself.

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Let Go of What Others Think

Another key to stop being a perfectionist teacher is to let go of what others think of you, and learn to be your authentic self. Stop being afraid that the world will see you as anything other than perfect and just focus on being you. As soon as you’re willing to let go of what others think of you, then you’ll be on your way to being a much happier teacher.

Let Yourself Fail

Being a perfectionist means that you never will allow yourself to fail. But just as you tell your students that they can learn from failure, so can you. What would happen if you didn’t grade papers until tomorrow or if your students didn’t all pass their exams? Sometimes things are out of your hands, and it is OK that everything doesn’t always go the way that you want them to. Sometimes when you let yourself fail, you learn from it. The key is to not knock yourself down every time something doesn’t go the way that you had hoped. Instead, try and think of it as a learning experience.

Limit or Delegate Tasks

Oftentimes, perfectionist teachers think they have to do everything on their own because that’s the only way they know things will be done right. However, when you do everything for yourself without limitations or without delegating tasks to others, it can become quite overwhelming. In order to stop being a perfectionist and do everything yourself, you must be able to limit your tasks as well as learn to delegate them to others. Start by setting a time limit for the tasks that need to be completed. If the time is up, then you must leave your task for another time, even if it’s incomplete. Next, learn to delegate your tasks. Your students can be great assistants. Learn to relinquish some control and give away some unimportant tasks to your students. Not only will this free up some of your time, but it’ll also teach your students some responsibility.

In order to shift away from perfectionism, you must learn to adopt a different mindset: the Mindset that it’s OK to not be perfect, to fail sometimes, to limit or delegate some of your tasks and to let go of what others (and yourself) may think. Once you can do this, then you’ll be on your way to a happier and more productive teacher.

Are you are perfectionist teacher? What kinds of things do you do that makes you think you are? Please share your classroom management experiences and tips in the comment section below, we’d love to hear from you on this topic.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.