On a recent call with my mother, we chit-chatted about the weather, the kids, work, etc., and then entered into a discussion about cooking. She shared a lovely recipe for chicken with turmeric, honey, and basil. So I shared a recipe for chicken that included a spice rub of paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder. I had no idea how garlic powder could push my mother’s buttons, but boy, did I set off a firestorm!

She immediately scolded me on all the reasons processed garlic is an abomination, and why I should never use it when there is a wonderful, natural food—called real garlic—with so many nutritious (you would think saintly) qualities. Don’t get me wrong, I love real garlic; I cook with it often, and I appreciate all the flavorful and nutritious benefits it has to offer. But in this instance, for this recipe, I used garlic powder, and now I felt terrible for it.

And then I realized why I felt terrible. It wasn’t the garlic powder, and it wasn’t my mother’s scolding; it was the teacher in me. Educators, the good ones at least, have an innate desire to perfect the world around them. We want only the best for our students, so we hone our craft, revise our lesson plans, and differentiate our instruction. We will go to the ends of the earth to make sure each student learns, and there is virtue in that to be sure. But our striving for perfection is partly why so many teachers burn out and leave the profession.

So I submit to you that a little bit of garlic powder might be the cure. Don’t get me wrong. As a professional development provider, I’m a fierce advocate of honing the craft of teaching and bringing your best to every student, every day. But the truth is that above all, the best thing for your students is a teacher who is fulfilled, balanced, and fully present. So next time you’re stressing to find the perfect activity to introduce a lesson or the best bulletin board decorations, give yourself a break. Strive for perfection where it matters; opt for an effective shortcut where it doesn’t. Where does it matter for you? Where does it not? Trust your judgment then reach for the spice rack.

P.S. The call ended with me reminding my mother that I had many a frozen pizza growing up and I think I turned out ok. She conceded the point, and I made my paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder chicken that night. Yum.