As students approach their teenage years, there is a lot of pressure to be perfect. They believe that they must have perfect grades, the perfect resume, and a social media presence that must reflect their most perfect selves. A blind pursuit of perfection is a dangerous endeavor for young people. As many adults can testify, perfection is very difficult if not impossible to attain. If that is the goal of our young people, they will live very unfulfilled lives. Perfect grades, perfect resumes, and perfect social media accounts should not be life goals but rather byproducts of something much more valuable. It is important that we do not simply demand perfection from our children but that we empower them to always give a perfect effort.
A perfect effort is the consistent exploration of what it takes to be the best person that they can be.
Ancillae-Assumpta Academy’s Junior High program is designed to give young people the opportunity to explore what it means to give a perfect effort every single day. The effort that our students use to approach their academics, extracurricular activities, faith formation and interpersonal relationships will shape the person who they are going to become in the real world. It is our goal as a group of educators to seek out teachable moments to give our students this critical mindset.
A Perfect Effort through Excellence
It is understandable for our students to excel in the subjects that they find interesting. That is why teachers try to engage students in a variety of ways. They will utilize different mediums, project types, and delivery systems for their curricular content. Beyond that, students who are interested in a subject are more likely to take notes, participate, and thoroughly complete assignments. These effective student strategies lead the students to the good grades that they are seeking. It is an important part of the learning process to apply those same methods of success to subjects that they do not find as interesting. A strong desire to give a perfect effort will open students’ minds to new possibilities.
A Perfect Effort through Commitment
Once our students have developed their methods of success they must stay committed to them in all areas of their lives. On last year’s 8th grade field trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, a few of our students stood in line with a puzzled look on their faces. They stood with their finished dinner plates looking where to deposit their compost. At the place where we were eating, there were trash and recycling bins, however, there was no bin for compost. Our students had internalized our school’s mission to take care of the environment. One of our chief initiatives on campus is to compost all of the leftover food from lunch. In that moment, it would have been easy for our 8th graders to dump their leftovers into the trash and then return to their seats. Without direction from the faculty, our students instead sought out the staff to discuss possible composting options. A few moments later, a composting station was created and was utilized for the entirety of the 4-day trip. Sometimes a perfect effort calls for collaboration and innovation in order to stay committed when doing so is not easy.
A Perfect Effort through Faith
Giving a perfect effort is not without its challenges. In fact, the real value of giving a perfect effort can be seen when things become truly challenging. When these moments arise, our students need to be able to lean on a tested faith and strong set of values. Every week, 7th and 8th graders take 30 minutes to gather as a class in the chapel for adoration. This is a time for students to sit quietly, reflect on their week, and explore their faiths. Each week the adoration focuses on a different issue that the students may face as young adults. Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “I used to think that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.” Self-reflection on their actions, feelings, and relationships is a vital element to the development of an emerging adult. Adoration can show our students how to lead, work, and serve on purpose.
A Perfect Effort through Passion
Growing up means that you begin to widen your passions to include things outside of yourself. Every year, the 8th grade works closely with Face to Face for its annual service project. Face to Face is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing human services to our community’s most vulnerable people. For years, 8th graders have spent their Saturday mornings volunteering at Face to Face. Although they are only serving for a few hours at a time, our students always come back with stories and faces that they will take with them forever. They are able to see the plight of people in their own community. They begin to understand the responsibility that they have to take care of their fellow human beings. Most importantly, those few hours develop new passions within our students and hopefully develop them into life-long lovers of service. A perfect effort means that they look out for other people. It means that they need to treat all others with respect and kindness. A perfect effort will develop them into people who can be depended on when they take their place in the world.
A Perfect Effort through Community
Joy comes from being together. Through a perfect effort we realize that we are all part of a human community. In fact, togetherness is the true nature of joy. Fostering a feeling of togetherness takes time and effort. It takes little moments and little acts of kindness to create a real community. I coach both the Varsity Soccer and Varsity Baseball teams. During my first season, I was astounded to see that all of my players went up to the referee and shook their hands after every single game. We had never discussed that as a team, meaning that they did not learn to do that from me. They learned it from the students that came before them. It is a simple act of kindness that has been learned not from individuals but from a community. They taught one another that. Shaking the referee’s hand is a sign that it is possible to give a perfect effort as a community. It is a sign that we can make each other and our world better every day-- in the classroom, with our family, or on the basketball court.
Giving a perfect effort is never easy. It easier to give a minimal effort on an assignment when you are tired. It is easier to be short with someone when you are grumpy. It is easier to blame others when something does not go your way. It is our role as educators to show our students that when talent and energy fails, effort endures.
About the Author
7th & 8th Grade
8 years teaching
5 years at Ancillae-Assumpta Academy
“We Need to Rethink the Way We Teach Our Students About Poverty”
Photography by Alexis Perrine & Marie Boyden
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