Battling Perfectionism Using Unrulr

Maggie Burns
January 24, 2024

I stayed up all night completing assignments desperate to master or perfect the material. I was the student who cried if she didn’t get an A. I was the athlete who had panic attacks after practice if I didn’t do “good”, and who couldn’t sleep at night after I played a bad game. A human being who was programmed to think I had to master, perfect, and make no mistakes along the way… My name is Maggie Burns and I am a recovering perfectionist. I have fallen in love with the journey and the process of becoming this version of myself by accepting and learning from my experiences with the intent of using them, and with the help of Unrulr, to make change. 

De-Programming Perfectionism

I am from Louisville, Kentucky, and currently attend Daemen University (Buffalo, NY) as an education student. From a young age, I think I was always meant to be a teacher and coach because every week I wanted to play school in my grandma’s basement and I would constantly ask my mom to help at my younger sister’s volleyball practice. For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed working with kids, and as I have gotten older helping, mentoring, and guiding youth has become a passion of mine whether it's as a teacher or volleyball coach. I played volleyball from age seven until I finished my career in December 2023. Playing volleyball was critical in the development of my strong work ethic and my ability to work well with others. When I began to take this sport more seriously and started to play travel volleyball, I turned into a competitive, perfectionist who hated losing. I believe it was somewhat essential for these qualities to develop because it drove me to put in the extra work and effort it takes to play a sport collegiately. But, the competitive and perfectionistic tendencies spread to other aspects of my life, specifically school. School in today’s day and age is a perfect place for perfectionists to breed. The goal, preached by the teachers, is to get a 100% on that test, assignment, or project. I think without realizing it, teachers are breeding perfectionists who will do whatever it takes to get a “good” grade. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school I started to adjust my mindset, with the help of a sports psychologist, that perfection is unattainable. Chasing perfection, obsessing over mastery, and attempting to fully understand topics and skills leads to distress. I want students chasing knowledge, obsessing over growth, and accepting the journey which all lead to self acceptance and confidence.

I want my students to reach for the stars, and focus on their journey of improvement and gaining knowledge rather than be afraid of messing up or failing. 

Now I am heading into my last semester of undergrad at Daemen University where I will begin to student teach, and then graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Students with Disabilities (Grades 7-12). My dream job is to be in a high school working as a Special Education teacher, helping students with different disabilities (learning, emotional, and physical) navigate and succeed in an inclusive general education classroom. Ideally, I would love to have my own resource room where I can help students do assignments, prepare for tests, assist them in organization, and build relationships with students which is what I have learned to be most important. I want to do everything I can to make my classroom learning focused, rather than “mastering”, “perfecting”, or “grade” focused. I want my students to reach for the stars, and focus on their journey of improvement and gaining knowledge rather than be afraid of messing up or failing. 

Learning to Value Process Through Unrulr

I have really enjoyed my experience as an education student at Daemen University studying under documentation expert Angela Stockman. I have been in the classroom observing and/or assisting since my first semester. This has given me the opportunity to learn from other educators in the field and see what teaching is really like in different settings and environments. I became familiar with Unrulr when I was briefly introduced to it during an assessment methods course I took in the spring of 2023.  I had an opportunity this past semester (Fall of 2023) to participate in an independent study on pedagogical documentation where I used Unrulr as a tool frequently to gather, collect, and analyze qualitative data. The past semester I became proficient in using Unrulr (on the app and the website) to document my learning in all aspects of my life. Unrulr gave me a single, organized space where I could input all data multimodally and look back on it later to reflect on it. This process, seemingly very simple, I learned can be, and should be, very uncomfortable because that is when growth occurs.

Click here to see an example of multimodal data with a reflection. 

A topic that arose during my study was the concept of “Master vs Learner”. If you read my posts, I dove deeper into what that exactly means. In short, I have become fascinated with the concept of being a lifelong learner instead of striving for mastery, perfection, and/or full understanding (I dive very deep into this and explain more in the links in this post). As I continue to transition from a student to a teacher, I continue to grapple with this idea and I have found Unrulr to be the perfect place to dump any and all thoughts. I find myself oftentimes at a crossroads between the culture of “mastering” that I grew up in and the culture of “learning” that has been preached to me by my education professors. It's hard to describe, but it brings me peace knowing I should strive to be a lifelong learner as a teacher rather than strive to be an all-knowing, “master” teacher. Unrulr has been critical in this realization and mindset change because I am able to reread the data and reflections I entered. If I would have never used Unrulr, I probably wouldn’t have noticed patterns and common themes such as “perfection” and “learning” popping up in my posts. Noticing these patterns, themes, and consistent ideas lead me to have this epiphany moment in a meeting with my professor who proctored my study and research. 

I am super excited to join this Unrulr team to help others learn how to use Unrulr proficiently and effectively. I want to use this opportunity to help other learners fight perfectionism.  Unrulr has made me a better reflector and more reflective which I believe has made me a better future educator. Unrulr allows you to input multimodal attachments, and gives you the option to add a caption where you can explain the multimodal “moment” and reflect on it if you choose. I always use the caption as a place to reflect on how the moment I captured made me feel and anything else I feel that is important. Because I started to do this process so regularly, I became better at reflection, but I also became more reflective. After something happens, it is second nature to me to think of the good, bad, cool, weird, and wow moments. Being a high level reflector will help me achieve my goal of being a life-long learner educator because I will be able to identify moments in which I grew, I need to improve, I did well, or I need to change. 

I have become a pedagogical documentarian – thanks to Unrulr’s help. It excites me that I can, hopefully, help to create tools, processes, and ideas for others to use to grow and build community and fight perfectionism.

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