Tutor: Perfect is the Enemy of Done

Last week, we considered Chris Argyris’s perspectives on why a certain class of academic overachiever tends to struggle when challenged. I don’t know about you, but I saw many students I’ve worked with in these descriptions.

Tutors are, by nature of our roles, results-oriented educators. Hence, while theories can be fun and fascinating, we should focus more clearly on how to help brittle perfectionists break through self-limiting beliefs in order to reach the next level of ability or understanding. I asked for your suggestions and received a couple worth sharing.

Julie Post of Brain-Grow Education finds that her overachievers get the message when it is wrapped in music, specifically Let Me Fall by Josh Groban. The first lyric sets a tone of commitment to embracing a worthy challenge, no matter how uncertain the outcome.

Let me fall
Let me climb
There’s a moment when fear
And dreams must collide

Exam prep tutor Jade Arthur encourages her students to view instructional time as their experimental hub: make the mistakes in practice so that you don’t make them on the test. With your tutor or coach, you can learn from mistakes so that you already know how to rectify it on test day. Ultimately, the learning process is not as much about the destination as the ability to handle the difficult route getting there. See Jade’s more expanded explanation of turning errors into experiments in our Tips, Tools, and Thoughts.

Not all high-achieving students struggle for the same reasons. First, consider that high grades and test scores don’t always correlate with a proportional thirst for knowledge. Sometimes, exceptional academic accomplishment stems from insufficiently challenging coursework. Just because a student has shown an ability to succeed on one level does not mean that student has the drive or hunger to progress to the next level.

In other cases, inherent IQ allows students to brute-force results rather than working for them. Students like this, much like many natural athletes, eventually hit a wall where native ability isn’t enough anymore. Provide these students the right structure and coaching to build a skillset for success.

Perfectionists can be the most frustrating students to work with because their fear of failure becomes paralyzing. You have surely heard that perfect is the enemy of goodPerfect is also the enemy of good scores, in large part because test takers may find themselves perseverating over one problem only to miss many others because they ran out of time. Teach your students to always keep moving, allocating precious time where it matters most. Losing a battle to win the war is still winning. While you’re sharing this valuable life lesson, apply it in your own life as well.

When success stems from productivity, perfect is the enemy of done.

— Mike Bergin

Tutor Tips, Tools, and Thoughts

The Ratio Lens
Why is ratio such a critical consideration in group instruction?

Turning ‘Errors’ into ‘Experiments’
Once you tell students to experiment in your sessions, they’ll begin to develop courage and resilience.

The Myth and Reality of Being Gifted
What does being gifted really mean for students?

Thinkific’s Digital Learning Trends 2023 Report
The e-learning industry is expected to be worth more than $460 billion by 2026. Are you getting any of that?

Learn How to Make a Board Game The Smart Way
Want to make your brand of learning fun? Why not a board game?


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