Remember my new year's resolution about being a good enough professor? Perfectionism doesn't work very well for me at work. No matter how strenuously I try, I will never get a 100% approval rating from my students. No matter how feverishly I edit, I will never get a set of reviews back that say, "This manuscript is exactly right! Don't change a word!" But I can torch a lot of energy and willpower trying to achieve those impossible goals.
l keep thinking about the conversation with my chair in which she said, "More than 90% of your students [in the class I was fretting about over break] said you were either effective or highly effective in your role." And something clicked for me: I can live with a 92% approval rating. I can be okay with that particular A-. I hated the very idea of A-minuses when I was a student myself, but I am going to make my peace with them as a prof.
Have I told you about my load this semester? The first four weeks of the semester are going to be crazy intense from a teaching perspective, because I'm prepping 5 hours of content each week for a new grad class. [takes a deep breath; declines to hyperventilate; repeats "good enough prof good enough prof"]. The following four weeks are going to be crazy intense from a service perspective, because I've been assigned to the department's most time-consuming committee. (There's some overlap between those two commitments, but I'm not going to think about that right now.)
I'm teaching two undergrad classes, one right after the other. They run from 11 until 1, and at about 12:10 today I was feeling hungry and wired. I tripped over a sentence and thought to myself, "Oh, dear, that came out wrong." In my mind's eye I could see myself standing at a fork in the road: I could go down the path of self-flagellation and worry that it was going to get worse as I got hungrier, or I could say "good enough prof! no biggie!" I chose option B.
Here is the weird part: my undergrads are always more reserved than my grad students. They're slower to ask questions, they're slower to answer questions, and they never laugh as loudly at my jokes. But today, after I chose option B, it was as if they relaxed with me. We had much more fun than I would have expected to have on the second day of class -- it usually takes longer for them to warm up.
This is strange to me, because I would never have guessed that my students could perceive my worried perfectionism. But maybe they can.