Move Over, Step Aside, Shoo! Perfectionism

15 Sep

Rachel spent 45 minutes recounting all of the issues that had transpired in the her first week of middle school. It was a disheartening, daunting list for me to help her wade through in our remaining 15 minutes. The primary issues concerned organization for each class and between classes (because of the dreaded classroom transitions on an hourly basis). I knew she could not wait until our next session…more issues would emerge and the snowball would grow.

So, I went to her school. We scripted a plan for what to do between classes.

1. Start gathering my materials 2 minutes before class is over. Check my schedule on my accordion file to know when I should start. (Rachel said, “Will you tell my teachers that I can do this? I know Mrs. Smith will freak out.” Check.)

2. Put pencil/pen/highlighter in case. Case is under desk atop of unused books.

3. Put away any paperwork in appropriate slot in binder/accordion file.

4. Pull out stack of books. Place current book in the appropriate spot (based on size) in stack.

5. Stack binder/accordion file under books and pencil case on top of books.

6. Picture where your next class is.

7. Look around you. Find person who is ready to “go”?

8. Ask yourself, “Is this person going to my next class?”

9. If ‘yes’, follow them. But not too closely.

Sounds great, right? I thought so. She thought so. I stood outside of her classroom, talking to her teacher about this plan. Her teacher said, “If only her perception of herself was accurate. She is doing so well — better than most others with making this transition.” As we walked, Rachel walked out, dropped all of her materials, and looked at me, “We need to practice this part, too.”

As I drove away from her school that day, I realized that we did the wrong “verb”. We organized — even though she was already doing an amazing job — when she needed to be empowered. So often this happens: Her picture of what is “wrong” is shaded by perfectionism, and that perfectionism casts a dark shadow that leads even the most confident to feel unsure. So, imagine someone who already lacks that confidence — perhaps because she has really been unsuccessful, perhaps because she “thinks” she has been unsuccessful — with the anchor of perfectionism tied to her perceptions and self-reflections.

I drove to Wal-mart, picked out the most endearing singing congratulations card, and wrote the last addition to our list.

#10 Remember: I can do this. Congratulations to me.

I’m hoping to shove a little bit of that perfectionist tendency aside, make it a bit of a brighter shade. Have you had success with this battle?


Posted by on September 15, 2010 in ASD in the Schools


2 responses to “Move Over, Step Aside, Shoo! Perfectionism

  1. Jean Nicol

    September 15, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    How terrific for you to actually “be there” for Rachel and not just send her off with a list. Your personal contact with her teacher will pay off big time for Rachel too. I love # 10 on the list ~ awesome!

    • jholverstott

      September 16, 2010 at 3:17 AM

      “Being there” is critical. It was a read on the situation — a critical moment. I try to be in contact with most of my clients. Some schools make it harder than others. But, her school makes it a bit easier and my job a bit more successful. Thank you, again, for your kind words.


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