Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reforming Education by Reforming Attitudes

When it come to motivation and generating more positive results, I have found that the saying, “success breeds success” is quite relevant.  The challenge to leaders whose teams are stuck in a cycle of negativity is often finding something to use as a positive foundation from which additional (and incremental) successes can be built.  In my experience, as positive momentum gathers steam, these smaller “successes” begin to add up to major changes.

I mention this because, once again, I read an article about how poorly American students are apparently doing in school.  As usual, my gut reaction was to wonder if the Education Secretary Arne Duncan realizes what just about every teacher I know understands – students are aware of these messages and they do nothing to motivate them to do better.  Also, if you’re trying to motivate teachers and schools to do better, then putting down on their students is probably not going to be very effective.

I do, however, have a proposal.

Let’s try to find something that we do very well in the United States and promote that with our students.

What do we do well?  I would say many things, but one I want to mention is that part of the American identity is our willingness to come to the aid of others in their time of need.  Not that we are perfect, but Americans have a strong record of being socially active and willing to get involved in charitable causes.

The same is true in our schools.  As a resident of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, I can say without hesitation, that the generosity of schools around the country was overwhelming and much appreciated (and continues to be appreciated).  As a nation, citizens have pledged over $1 billion for Haitian relief and our government leads all other countries in pledged help to that cause.

These are but a few examples of American generosity.  It may be true that our students, according to some testing measurements, are not the best in the world in math and science, but there are certainly a great many accomplishments of which our nation should be proud.  These are often the result of a level engagement that no other country in the world can match.

My message to our students:

Keep up the good work.  Your world needs you.

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