It’s Worth Doing Badly

I have a friend who is known for her wise, often humorous, sayings. One of my favorites is, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” Apparently, according to my web search, G.K. Chesterton said it first.

“Wait a minute,” I can hear you thinking, “Isn’t it supposed to be, ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing well?’” No, not always. Most of us spend our lives—and certainly our school days—being encouraged, and encouraging others, to do our best. And much of the time, that’s a good idea. Of course we want to try hard, reach goals, and encourage our students to do well. But sometimes, as my wise friend reminds us, fears of not doing well—not doing “our best,” whatever that is–can keep us from trying at all. Sometimes, best or not, it is worth trying.

I’ve been thinking about that in my latest summer adventure. Recently, 40+ years after my last French class, I signed up for weekly French classes through our local Rec and Ed program. At this point I’ve had approximately 20 hours of instruction, so my 40 year old French is a bit better but far from expert. Still, in a burst of courage, I’ve signed myself up for a week of adult summer language “camp” in Quebec City this summer. I even signed up to stay with a local family. I suspect I’m going to be seriously over my head language-wise, but I’m still excited about the adventure. I’ve decided that for me, for now, bad French is OK. If I wait until I feel as if my French is my “best” I’d probably never go to Quebec. Sometimes we just have to jump. For me, for French, this is the moment.

Teaching this lesson to children can be tricky, Of course we don’t want to encourage students to be lazy, sloppy, or unconcerned. But we do want to help them take risks. How else do creativity and new adventures have space to emerge? So perhaps this week you might want to think about what challenges—for you or your students—are important enough to try, even if badly. Who knows, you might end up in Quebec!


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