“I’ve hung Poppy’s lead up there, is that okay?” asked my brother. We’d just got back from a lovely walk and he’d headed into the house before me while I’d stopped to chat to a neighbour.
“That’s perfect,” I replied. “Thank you.”
It’s a word I use quite often I’ve realised and, given last week’s blog where I was thinking about the damaging effect of a developing a perfectionist mindset, I decided I’d give it some attention this week and reflect on whether it’s something I might want to change.
The model I use for helping people feel better about handwriting is one that translates to anything we want to adapt and achieve. I use it myself all the time. It works every time:
focus attention and notice what’s happening now
break down what you want to change or happen into manageable chunks
take small step consistent action
reflect often and adapt as necessary in order to achieve desired outcomes (success)
Here are the kind of things I noticed myself saying when talking to students or thinking about handwriting:
“You’re forming ‘d’ perfectly now.”
(To a 7-year-old student)
“This handwriting is perfect for the task.”
(Thinking about Bruce Springsteen’s notes for a gig playlist)...
“It makes perfect sense that your brain is still going back to your old formations while you’re busy choosing words, arranging them in sentences, remembering them and spelling them. There’s a lot going on!”
(Reassuring a 7-year-old who was disappointed his practice handwriting didn’t immediately translate to his story writing handwriting):
“Ahhh, what a perfect gift...how lovely!”
(Response to this message from a mum who kindly shared her birthday card from her daughter: “Absolutely love how far she has come with her handwriting!”)
“None of us have perfect ‘birthday card’ handwriting all the time. Sometimes we’re just not in the mood. Sometimes we’re annoyed and it shows in our writing. That’s okay.”
(Reflecting on ‘happy’ and ‘unhappy’ practice with a 9-year-old student)
The Cambridge Dictionary says:
1 - complete and correct in every way, of the best possible type or without fault:
2 - used to emphasise a noun: ‘That makes perfect sense.’
3 - exactly right for someone or something: ‘You’ve done a perfect job.’
2 and 3 I’m fine with, 1 needs exploring further I think. So next week I’ll look more specifically at individual letter formations and who gets to decide what is ‘correct’ and ‘without fault’ when it comes to handwriting!
For now, having given it some attention and thought, I’ve decided I’m happy saying ‘perfect’. I use it in ways that align with my intentions and beliefs. I’m aware I need to be mindful my words are received as intended though. Because each person’s interpretation of perfect will be personal, based on their experiences and their sense of self.
For me handwriting is a means of expression, communication and support. It’s the perfect tool to be employed and enjoyed (one that is often taken for granted or dismissed as outdated). It's a skill that should be taught well so that children and adults always have it at their fingertips with no feeling of judgement becoming a barrier to using it. Then they can get on with being perfect just as they are with one less fear and worry.
What do you think? What does perfect mean to you? :)