Friday, August 15, 2008

When Good Enough Isn't Good Enough

As a teacher, I've often had to answer the question, "Is this good enough?" Students ask me this quite often, and every time I am faced with this inquiry, my response is this, "What do you think?" followed by, "The fact that you've even asked me this question already gives you your answer. Is this the best that you can do?" The answer I get is almost always a "No."

The truth is, many adults are guilty of asking this question silently, and of submitting work that is sub-par to what they are capable of producing. Whether the excuse is lack of time or lack of motivation, such rationalization is unacceptable, because the work reflects the worker.

When I mark a stack of projects, I often find assignments without names on them. Without fail, these are almost always the ones that were poorly done or incomplete, sometimes even torn and crumpled, and often submitted late. Was it an oversight on the part of those particular students? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Interestingly enough, the best quality projects, the ones that exceed expectations and blow me away, are always labeled prominently with the name of their respective creators. I can tell that these students took pride in their work, and they wanted everyone to know it.

What we produce reflects what we believe and who we are. If we put our name to something that is done terribly, or that does not meet a basic standard of acceptability owing to our carelessness or slack-ass attitude, what does that say about our character, and our reliability? I personally hold myself to a very high standard. Regardless of whether or not I have agreed with an assignment or a task either in school or on the job, I have never submitted something that I did not complete to the utmost of my ability. The reason for this is simple. I refuse to associate my name with garbage, and I care enough about my responsibilities and my reputation to do my best work at all times. Those who have worked with Hubbs know that he is the same way. It reflects favourably on us and on our integrity when we follow through, the best way that we can, on something that we have been entrusted to do.

Of course, nobody is perfect, and therefore the standard is not an absolute based on the product itself exceeding expectations; few have that talent to excel to that degree. Rather, it is an absolute based on the producer. What is "good enough" is what you have worked to the fullness of your ability to produce, and what you have tried as hard as you can to do. Within those parameters, your character cannot be questioned even if what you yield is not the "best of the best," because it is your best, and you can take pride in that work.

Maybe we can all re-examine that tasks ahead of us, and hold ourselves to a higher standard. Perhaps we can stop asking whether what we've done is good enough, and replace that by asking ourselves what our best is. I believe if everyone did their very best in everything, this world would be a different, far better place.

And I'd get to spend more time in Calgary ;)


tejanamama said...

ooooooooooh it changed. The "raw" version was much more..."raw". Was worried hubbs might not like it or feel comfy with it up. What you have here is your best "YOU SUCK" in a sweeter more lyrical style. Good job!

I have to say I do not always do my best. I actually encourage my students who are struggling with jobs, troubled or ill children, dying parents, natural disasters or home/car emergencies, sometimes being ill themselves ---and sometimes several of these things happening all at once---to just do what they can.

Often it is no where near their best. I tell the to prioritize and get "enough" in or completed. The degree they earn is the same degree as the student who handed in the perfect ontime assignments. Sometimes getting through something is best for you (but not your best) in order to keep your sanity and not let things fall through the cracks. Sometimes it hurts because you know its not your best, but so many other things are going on in life, something has to give, and school (or work, or something else) is it.

I wish I could say what you have said, but I know its far from true. I don't always do my best but sometimes it just cannot be helped.

Sorry your trip is being cut short :( Have fun globetrotter!

Anonymous said...

You seem prideful, judgemental and hyper-critical.

Curlz said...

Mrs.L ~ I have to say, the teachers that I respected the most were the teachers that pushed me to do well. What do you teach exactly? And why do you refer to yourself as a "coding widow"? MB and I were wondering...


Mrs. Loquacious said...

Funny, "Anonymous." You seem cowardly. The irony of course, is that in accusing me of being "judgmental" (p.s. you spelled the word wrong, there is no "e" after the "g"), you have shown yourself to be the very same.

Tejanamama - Yeah, he asked me to take it down. ;) I think that there is always room to do your best, even if your best is "your best in that circumstance" vs. "your best on a really good day."

I agree it's the same degree at the end of the day. However, my position is that it's more about being able to put your name on it, and be proud, and own it, whether it's a task or a product. If it is poorly done, there are often consequences that affect others, not to mention a cost to one's own reputation / impression on others. A doctor who doesn't do his/her best on the job could end up costing a patient their health. A teacher who calls it in all of the time will fail to cover the required curriculum and affect the learning of their students, not to mention lose the respect of their peers. A project demo that is incomplete or broken or that isn't delivered on time by its developers due to carelessness or slack will cause the client to lose faith in a project and pull the plug, costing many others their jobs.

Why not do one's best, and then have a clear conscience about it? I think the death of the old fashioned work ethic is in part due to people who have adopted far too many excuses rather than take responsibility for what they do or produce.

Mrs. Loquacious said...

Curlz - I totally agree with you! I did not appreciate teachers who merely required that I perform to an "acceptable" standard when they were fully aware that I could do so much more. The ones who encouraged and challenged me helped me grow and kept me engaged through school. The others left me bored.

I try to encourage my students to do their best every time, and to "wow!" me with their work. Most recently, I have been teaching jr. high Language Arts, Drama, Bible, and Health, though my passion is Language Arts (aka English). I keep wanting to switch to Gr. 3 but God keeps putting me back with the teens. ;)

"Coding widow" is my pet phrase for people whose significant others are software developers, programmers, or architects who get so engrossed with their work and their "professional development" learning that they leave their better halves to their own devices, rendering them almost widowed. :) The term can also be applied to those whose S.O.'s attend many development conferences, leaving their travel partners/lovers alone in the hotel for the duration of the conference. Hope that solves the mystery! :D

tejanamama said...

I have a gf who is a football widow...big time. He watches all the college and pro games. BAD case of fb fever! So glad dh isn't like that with sports!

I agree when it comes to the lower levels..having someone push you, even in college, can lead to great things. I had excellent instructors myself. I teach adults, however. If i taught freshman right out of highschool it might be different, I guess. I have too many students struggling to get through college to better their lives who have complex situations with which to contend. I hate that some feel like failures for not earning "As" when they hold down jobs and care for sick children while going through divorces, all while trying to earn degrees. They have to give themselves permission to not be perfect in all they do or suffer physical and mental consequences. I think they are incredible to even be in college against all odds. One lady a few terms ago finished the course less than perfectly after doing homework from her daughter's beside after two life-threatening brain surgeries. Her girl was only 12 years old. A few students have had to bury family members during the term and one finished her assigment from her new home at the women's shelter with her four children in tow after leaving an abusive man who almost killed her. My courses are accellerated too so there isn't much room for a lot of error, unfortuntely. In the longer semesters a week or two won't undo you, but in nine week courses, it can.

People just never cease to amaze me and its part of why I enjoy teaching adults. They inspire me to be a better person and to be understanding. I always end up appreciating my own circumstances more too! :)