If you don’t already know, I’m a school teacher. I spend a lot of my time marking and grading. When I was a kid, if you got 50% on a test, it was a bad thing (I can’t remember, but I seem to think it earned you a “D”) Nowadays, a 50% is a C- (which means “not yet meeting expectations”). Grades are a big thing for me – not only professionally, but personally. I have spent pretty much all of my life around this idea of being graded. In elementary and secondary school, I brought home decent enough grades to keep my parents happy without having to do too much work. Now that my own children are entering high school, we talk about the importance of a good GPA as it pertains to getting into post-secondary programs. As a music student, I took Royal Conservatory Exams, and remember the thrill of getting a “First Class Honours with Distinction” on a few theory exams…. and, I remember the devastation of failing my grade 10 practical exam the first time I took it (a pass, in that instance, was 70%). When I recently returned to university, I decided that this was my time to shine, and I pushed myself to get straight As. Each essay I got back with a lovely red “A” on the last page brought me joy. Those A+s were cause for celebration. When I was doing my teaching practicum, which was a pass/fail program, a friend and I resolved to give each other As at the end of the term, because we were both so driven by letter grades. And, I’ve been known to brag about graduation from my B.Ed program with straight A+s. Grades are omnipresent in my life.
Today, however, I realized something very important: 50% is good enough.
Wow – I could hear my friends gasping at reading me say that!!! But, it’s true.
This week, I started following the Eat-Clean Diet (which isn’t really a diet as much as it is a lifestyle change for me). Typically, when I start a new “diet” it’s an all-or-nothing thing for me. If I couldn’t give myself a grade of “A” (or better) after a couple of days, I’d get so discouraged, and quit. Which would often lead to me feeling depressed and thereby eating more (usually in the form of chocolate).
Last Friday, during my counselling appointment, my counsellor had me set some goals. I decided that I’d eat clean for breakfast and lunch, which, a few days later, turned into “eat clean for two meals/snacks per day.” I know it sounds like a simple goal, but for me to not strive for perfection is very, very difficult.
You know what? It’s working! In striving for this partial goal, this ‘not-quite-perfect’ goal, I am actually feeling successful!! Sure, I’ve had a few “dirty meals” (um, Burger King isn’t ‘clean eating’ last time I checked), but, because my goal is two meals/day clean, I’m not beating myself up when I have one unhealthy meal. Ok, so I had that piece of cake and a can of pop at lunch today… who cares?!? It was one meal, and I didn’t let it ruin my day! I had a very healthy breakfast, and my dinner was really clean…. and tonight, when I was having a major sugar craving, I waited it out, reminding myself that this is just my body’s way of getting used to a new lifestyle, one that doesn’t depend on refined sugars for energy.
How cool is that?!?!
Even though yesterday I had Burger King for lunch, and today I splurged a bit, I don’t feel like a failure. I am able to focus on my success because I met my goal. And I can do it again tomorrow, and the day after that. Then, once I get used to eating 50% clean, I can increase it to 75% clean.
When I went to search for an image for this post, the first thing I typed into the search engine was “50%.” Do you know what came up? A bunch of 50% Off sale signs. That made me chuckle… maybe this 50% approach will help me take pounds off!!
I’ve never been one for baby steps. No siree. I’ve always been an ‘all or nothing’ type gal. However, I’m learning to be kinder to myself, to love myself, and to forgive myself. I’ve said it before that we treat our pets better than we treat ourselves. As I get ready to embark on a new year of teaching (and grading!) I need to remember something very, very important:
I am a great teacher who treats her students with love, compassion, empathy, kindness, respect and dignity (as every good teacher does): it’s time I started treating myself as well as I treat my students.
When a student fails a spelling test, I don’t tell them they should just quit school! When a student feels discouraged by an assignment that seems too difficult, I help them work through it, step by step. My goal as an educator is to help my students believe in themselves and feel proud of a job well done. I have come to learn that one student’s amazing achievement may be another student’s worst work; I work hard to help my kids recognize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. I encourage them to keep trying, over and over again, until they learn.
Why should I be any different with myself? Why can’t I encourage myself to keep trying and trying until I learn a new way of living? Because, really, it isn’t about the grade. Ask any teacher: grades are not as important as the lessons learned.
I am learning. I am learning a new way of being. It won’t always come easy, but as long as I try my best, I will succeed.
So, yeah, 50% is a good thing!