It was incredibly difficult to pin Mark down to doing any written work. He was a nice lad but was very chatty and amazingly effective at wasting time. It was particularly frustrating because there were times he showed great insight in class discussion. His teacher Sarah thought he was probably in a lower set than he should be, meaning he could get bored and disengaged.
The class had reached the end of the topic and so she brought in a stack of coloured paper and felt tip pens for them to make posters summarising what they had learnt. Mark was enthusiastic and collected a variety of coloured paper and pens and set to work.
Suddenly he sprang out of his seat, scrunching up a sheet of paper and angrily threw it in the bin. Sarah was taken aback by the way his demeanor had flipped. She went over to the bin, took out the paper and uncrumpled it. There were just three words on it, the third misspelled.
“Mark, what’s up with you?! You’ve wrecked a whole piece of paper!”
“Oh Miss”, he said, “I can NEVER do this sort of thing. I ALWAYS make a mess of it.”
Suddenly Sarah understood. She went to the cupboard and returned with a plain white piece of paper. “Mark, this paper is for you to make a rough draft. A rough draft is SUPPOSED to have mistakes. It is SUPPOSED to be messy. If it isn’t full of mistakes then you haven’t done it properly. Use your rough draft to decide what you want to put on your poster and how you want to arrange it. Do not start doing your poster until you have got your mind completely clear about what you want to write down and where you want to write it.”
Sarah left Mark to it. Every time she glanced over, Mark was busily writing. After about ten minutes she went over to look at his work. “Hey, you’ve written a lot!” and discussed a couple of the items with him. “That is exactly what a rough draft is supposed to look like. You’re almost ready to start making the final poster. Start drawing a plan of what will go where. When you start on your final poster, it might be a good idea to map everything out in pencil which can be rubbed out if you change your mind.”
A quarter of an hour later she saw out of the corner of her eye that he had started his poster. She went over and discussed with him what he was putting and where. By the end of the lesson his poster was almost finished. She didn’t know he could be so focused.
So what did Sarah spot? Why did Mark overreact to one misspelled word? Read Understanding the Reluctant Perfectionist to find out.