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Episode 7 | Imperfect

Updated: May 11, 2022


Season Two | Episode 7


What does it mean to be imperfect?

When we empower all the parts of us, even those that are self-proclaimed imperfect, that effort has the power to affect how we see the world, the environments, and the relationships all around us. There is a deep level of reflection that has to take place and continue to take place to be accepting of yourself, your process, and your journey.

So I got up on the wrong side of the bed…Let me explain.

We don't always wake up…arms stretched to the skies with the big refreshed yarn and smile as we see in the commercials. You know the magical rooster moment from the movies. I have a strong natural sleep rhythm regardless of how late I stay up, and I pretty much always wake up around the same time, about 6:30am these days. I realize that when I naturally wake up at 6:30 and if I say, "you know what, I'm going to get some more sleep. I'm going to sleep in," then my brain goes into a mode where I have extremely vivid dreams when I go back to sleep in the morning. They can be awesome dreams, sometimes they can be very strange, sometimes they can be triggering, and this morning I had one that brought up some past moments where I felt violated in major ways.

Read on for additional notes from the episode!


Based on what I know about brain science and because I am an educator, of course, I'm going to make that connection here. When I wake up from these dreams, I usually remember them; they are jarring because I wake up in survival mode. I'm waking up in a state of fight, flight, or freeze my body and my brain has been rushed with cortisol. When that happens, you can have a physical response. I remember the dream details, which means my brain is locked into a certain state. I'm constantly rewinding and reviewing all of the dream's details as I'm waking up as I'm getting ready, and I'm literally replaying the details of the dream and things that I noticed. My eyes are usually very swollen, and I'm very groggy. I'm drained, and my feet feel like bricks. I'm no longer springing into the day, I'm not spritely, and I'm very low energy.

It makes me think of students who do not have much control over their sleep patterns or their environments. Often, because of our school system and the rigid structures of our schedules, students cannot naturally wake up and transition into a space where they feel their best. Sometimes they just are going through it and, honestly, don't have the opportunity to talk it out and be helped through it or shift out of it. The whole day can be shifted because of a bad dream or nightmare.

Have you considered the dreams and nightmares of your students and how they impact their learning in your classroom?

Having this response (even as an adult) would show up in how I teach that day. I am a business owner right now and don't have the immediate responsibility to be in front of kids, but if I had to head to the classroom in this state. I'm not feeling it. When my brain is in this state when I wake up, I don't want to work out, meditate, eat a healthy breakfast… all things that I know to fuel the rest of my day. I reach for the coffee, and that gives me barely an ounce of energy that it usually does. That is the power of cortisol in the body, and it can't easily be masked and lifted. Shout out to those directly in front of students every day right now.

I'm thinking about how my students will show up if they come in a triggered, heightened, altered brain state. It makes me wonder how empathic am I set up to be that day. What co-regulating tools do I have to support students regardless of the side of the bed they woke up on or their experiences on their way to school. Think about it! They may have already engaged with several people who weren't co-regulating and just shooing them to their next destination because they have to get to work. The school leader might have hurried them along to class, not noticing them because perhaps only personal relationships (like between teacher and student) would be able to tell that they are a little off from their norm that day.

  • What do I have in place for students to help give students a runway of learning, class culture, and a sense of belonging?

  • Are my expectations that they are perfect when they come in, that my perfect schedule is followed and that they participate in the same high-energy, fully engaged way every day?

  • Does that make sense? Is that fair right now, even for myself?

With the acceptance of imperfection, we also need grace and flexibility.

While I teach the science of learning and development and the simple brain science that every educator must know, I first heard about brain science in the book Gifts of Imperfections by Brene' Brown. She talked about how we are hard-wired for connection. That book changed the game in helping me realize some deep-rooted shame and guilt I have been carrying around with me because of traumatic events I lived through in my teenage years and early 20s. It also made me face the unrealistic expectations I was putting on those I cared about to put their experiences down and perform to a level of perfection I was placing on them, including my students.

I don't really think I fully loved my job as a teacher or my life in general until I put down the burden of shame and unpacked how I would live wholeheartedly. It also shined a new light on my students, and I was much more open to considering their context once I faced my own.

We know what the perfect student would do in our minds...

how that student responds, participates, and acts. Every teacher has a moment where they envision what the "perfect student" is like. How do I know this? Our lesson planning. Usually, we think about it going perfectly in those moments, especially if we are being observed. If we consider all that comes with our students, there is likely a ton behind their imperfect classroom moments. Students will respond differently than you envisioned in more ways than you can count. We can reframe our thinking to consider the opportunity behind every behavior.

Letting go of perfection for you and your students could be the most impactful thing you do all school year. Trust is built in vulnerability, and we are usually quite imperfect in those vulnerable moments or at least grappling with something that is giving us an urge to strive for perfection and holding us back from the action simultaneously.

Authenticity and imperfection go hand and hand.

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. -Brene' Brown

One of my favorite lines to tell myself when I’m battling with the possibilities that come from me being imperfect and taking imperfect action is that time stops for no one. Despite how nervous I am, this time will pass, and I will be on the other side of it eventually. Do the best you can as the time passes by.

Same for students, share with them that they are meeting the moment with everything they have right now. Encourage them to do their best with it as they are. That’s not changing...Time will tick. Who you will become will change as a result of taking on this experience? Good, bad, or indifferent, we have to ebb and flow with it. Staying still isn’t an option because time just doesn’t work that way.

Pursuing a life of wholehearted living that embraced imperfect and beautiful opportunities will change you and your teaching career and experience forever.


You will find the Questions to Connections Guide for this episode on the word IMPERFECT here! If you are new here, check out our Path to Meaningful Connections resource!

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