Perfection: Process and Product

Perfection

What is perfection and how does it relate to learning through play?  I’m hoping to illustrate this for you here so if you’re curious, read on…

The dictionary defines perfection as the state of being flawless or free from defects. If you regularly read simply.cindy you know I’m always writing about play. The dictionary defines play as intrinsically motivated activities related to pleasure and enjoyment.

So how does perfection fit into a play based preschool program?  Or does it fit in at all?

As a preschool teacher I know the emphasis needs to be squarely on the process and not the product.  Why?  In my mind, it is because by emphasizing the process we emphasize things like skill development and building traits of character like determination, patience, perseverance and such.  For these little people who are completely egocentric, experiencing success and feeling comfortable to take risks is critical.  If the emphasis is on the product then a child may not experience success.  If the emphasis is on the product then a child may not take risks.  Without risk taking, there can be no learning.  Without experiencing some success, there will be no confidence to take further risks. Does this mean at preschool no child ever strives for perfection?

I find that if a child has an idea, her own idea, then that child is intrinsically motivated to work much harder on the task.  In fact, that child is willing to work on that task, fail, try again, fail, and try again repeatedly until that child feels satisfied that it meets with her original vision.  If that is not striving for perfection, then I do not know what is.

Will the end product meet the standards of perfection as defined by an adult?  Maybe not.  But who decides when something is flawless?   And what gives a person the right to judge the work of another?

The key here in preschool is that the vision of what needs to be accomplished belongs to that child and no one else.  And the child decides when the work is finished.  I truly believe that intrinsic motivation is the only path to perfection.  What do you think?

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17 thoughts on “Perfection: Process and Product

  1. We need to teach that somehow…great piece! We all know that we’re imperfect beings, so nothing that we do will ever be perfect, but oft times our flawed work is as close to perfect as we’ll ever get, and I’m fine with that.

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      1. I get it…we must be careful that we don’t foster perfectionism in school though–especially if it’s being taught at home. It leads to stressed out kids who only play in organized, competitive ways. I’m so glad they still know how to play and use their imagination in preschool. 🙂

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  2. So very true! I have worked with so many teachers who feel the product has to be perfect. I wish they could see the perfection in the not so cookie cutter process. Thank you for your insight on this. 😃

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  3. Love this Cindy. We always stay away from the ‘p’ word. I grew up with it and all you can do is never achieve it. The process is key and child led is the way. That is how our kids school is. Play. Learning through play. Outdoor fun. Have you heard of the Miquon School? We are just outside of Philadelphia, PA.

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  4. I agree that play is important, Cindy; and that play needs to be self-directed; and that children are the ones who know best when they have achieved what they set out to do. It’s when adults intervene to suggest that more is required or that other ways would work better, or that they need to be done in particular ways, before children have had opportunities to make their own assessments and re-trials or requests for help, that they may consider their work unacceptable. I’m not sure that it’s really perfection the children are aiming for. I think it’s satisfaction in their job well done. Just the same as it is for us. We don’t aim for perfection, but we do aim to do our job well. We know how high we want to set each bar and resent it when someone else sets a bar higher or lower than our own expectations. I don’t think it’s any different for children. We are all human after all. Great post.

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    1. Interesting thoughts. I think adults often intervene too soon. It can be a challenge also to know exactly how much help to give or how much to step back and allow a child to struggle/figure out independently. It is hard to watch them struggle when we think we know the answer but I do find that huge leaps in learning usually come following a period of frustration. Have you noticed the same?

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      1. I have; particularly when I stopped purposefully thinking about it. All of a sudden, as if from nowhere, I’ll get a flash of inspiration. But you were probably talking about the children! I do think it’s the same for all of us.
        I used to notice with my own children that they would often seem to get something. Then it would appear as if they had totally forgotten or had become confused by it. Then they’d understand it completely and not look back. My theory is that in the period of forgetfulness or confusion they are testing it out in different situations to make sure that what they think is correct. When they have been able to trial it fully, then they come to an understanding that is solid. But they need time to figure it out for themselves. If we rush them during their period of confusion, we may only confuse them more.
        You know I struggled writing my initial comment. I was saying we shouldn’t intervene, while knowing that there are times when we can aid a learner by intervening. I guess that’s what makes a good teacher – knowing when and how to support and encourage and when to leave them to their own devices. We don’t always get it right, but hopefully more times than not.

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  5. Ah – so many “P” words and they all come together with your beautiful writing: preschool, parenting, process vs. perfection, path, patience and most of all play! Everything is so positive.

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  6. I found this post really interesting since last semester I took a child development class and my instructor gave a lesson on a topic (that to me) related to this. I also believe that innate motivation is the road to perfection, and this not only for a child but every individual.

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