Friday, August 31, 2012

"Better. Today" - My new student orientation remarks

Below is a copy of the script I wrote to help me deliver my remarks at our recent New Student Orientation program.  In full disclosure, I did not say these verbatim.  This is the script I wrote as part of my preparation.

I do not read scripts when I speak at gatherings.

(August 30, 2012)

Good morning and thank you for attending our middle school orientation program.

Normally, I prepare only a brief statement about the coming year.  In that statement, I usually go over a few new initiatives, encourage you to ask plenty of questions, and then introduce the faculty with whom your child is going to work this year.  However, as I read through my Google Reader this morning around 5:15, I came across an article that spoke so deeply to me that I had to change my direction and share with you some important insights into how we feel about you, your child, and the nature of success in middle school.

Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson is the Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia University Business School.  She has published two books fairly recently that I highly recommend.  They are Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals and 9 Things Successful People Do Differently.  I strongly recommend both to anyone interested in understanding the science behind motivation, achievement, and goal attainment.  Dr. Halvorson also blogs frequently on her personal blog and for The Harvard Business Review.  Her new book, Focus: Use Different Ways Of Seeing The World To Power Success and Influence is due out in April, 2013.

I mention Dr. Halvorson because it is an article she published in her blog titled The Surprising Secret to Selling You that prompted the thoughts I want to share with you today.  Basically, the article summarizes a number of research projects which all suggest that we are much more interested in “The Next Big Thing” than we are in “The Biggest Thing.”  In other words, we overwhelmingly value POTENTIAL over PAST RESULTS.

The article points to a few specific studies.  One study explained that artists who are labelled the next big artist sell many more paintings than those who already have established reputations. Another demonstrated a comedian whose Facebook page that labelled him the next best stand-up was given many more”likes” than the page describing him as currently the best.  A third study asked subjects to act as general managers of an NBA team and determine how much they would pay for the sixth year of a fictitious player.  One group had 5 years of statistics based on actual results.  The other group had 5 years of PROJECTED statistics.  Overwhelmingly, the group with the projected stats were willing to pay much more for year 6.  They clearly valued the potential.

In many ways, I am not surprised by the power of potential.  After all, I have to believe it was the only reason Mrs. Roddy said, “Yes.”

Dr. Halvorson’s article, while not written specifically for education, does, in my opinion, have strong implications for school - especially middle school.

In my role as Division Head, I see quite a few admissions folders.  Each is packed with records of grades past, teacher recommendations, test scores, and essays.  It is a portfolio of you, as a student, from your earliest experiences to the most recent.  It is a record of your past.  These records are your “stats.”

I am responsible, then, for taking these records and forming an opinion about your ability to perform well.  In essence, I try to gauge your potential.

Your file is not who you are, but rather, it is what has brought you to this point.  What matters is not what is in the file.  What matters is what you will do now.  The file is done.  You are here.  What is your potential?

The challenge to us, as teachers and parents, is that you are the only one who can answer that question.  Sure, we can encourage you, support you, and have an opinion of you; but only YOU can decide your potential.  You are the expert on you and we need your expertise to help you achieve the potential you seek for yourself.

Discovering your potential is an exercise in finding and pushing your limits.  Success is found in a similar way.  It takes effort, willpower, resilience, perseverance, and grit.  Notice I said nothing about grades, honor rolls, test scores, or IQ.  Those are important and have their place, but alone cannot consistently find success nor discover potential.

Having the right attitude and mindset is important if you want to access the benefits of such an approach to success.  You must begin to think in terms of not necessarily being the best, but in terms of being better.  There was an ad not too long ago.  I think it was for Chevrolet, but I am not sure, that claimed, “The best get better.”  I agree, but too often in middle school we focus on “better” as something that will happen “down the road” such as better for high school, better for college, better next semester, etc.  I say too often because while we certainly care about your future, it is easy to forget that your future also includes tomorrow or even later today.

At the top of my notes for this past week’s faculty meetings, I wrote the words, “Better. Today.”  I believe that mantra is a powerful one for middle school.  Your job is to not just focus on being better, but on being better today.  In time, the sum of all your “better todays” will be better preparation for high school, college, and beyond.  But for now, let’s have a better sixth, seventh, or eighth grade.

The mantra “Better. Today” also applies to specific programmatic and organizational items.

Our Experiential Challenge Program transforms our former Discovery Week into a yearlong conversation and adventure into the meaning of virtue, teamwork, responsibility, and leadership.  We are “better today” to address the social and emotional needs of our students.

This year, you will being each day with your advisor and do so for double the time you had with them last year.  Our advisory program is a critical piece of your experience in middle school and we are, structurally, “better today” to support your middle school journey.

Academically, this year we see the return of the middle school theatre production as part of an adjusted creative arts curriculum.  That adjustment allows you, for the first time, to have more choice in your arts discovery.  We are also moving to a semester system in creative arts and adding more time to the week for this program.  In addition, the technology offerings are more focused than ever before and speak directly to the skills you need to navigate the digital world.  We are “better today” to inspire you academically.

You will see a few new faces this year on the faculty.  Wakefield School is an attractive place for professional educators.  Many candidates expressed interest in filling the three open spots in middle school.  When going through the process of evaluating candidates, it is not always clear who the best candidate is, but it does become more clear who the better candidate is.  The better one is not only a master of their discipline, but also the one whose care for students and desire to serve on a faculty team that is dedicated to the developmental needs of middle school is obvious and genuine.  Those are the candidates we invite to join us and who return for another year to lead you.  We are “better today” to guide your learning.

I believe that Wakeifeld School is the better choice.  All of us in this room have made that choice.  We continuously work to live that mantra, “Better. Today.”

Now, it is your turn.

What will you do today to get better?

What will you do today to help someone else get better?

What will you do today to help us, Wakefield School, get better?

If you need some simple suggestions, I have three.  These are part of my own personal guide for the year and I encourage and invite you (students, parents, and teachers) to join me with these goals.

1.  Remember that the standard for satisfaction is not perfection.

None of us are perfect.  None of us can be.  To hold someone to an impossible standard is a waste of time and is destined to create disappointment, anger, and anxiety.  This is middle school.  You are 11, 12, and 13 years old.  You are growing and developing daily.  Your standard of satisfaction should be based upon effort, resilience, persistence, will power, and grit.  Did you truly give your best effort?  How did you do?  What will you do differently  next time?  What will you do the same?  Those answers should form the foundation of your satisfaction.

2.  Have a “zero” policy.

I did not say a zero tolerance policy.  A “zero” policy simply is a statement about what you do not want to happen and a clear procedure to address the issue if it does happen.  In my advisory group this year, 7th grade boys, I have a “zero ‘U’ policy” for effort reports.  If one of my advisees receives a “U” in effort, I will contact the teacher who issued the “U”, designed a plan for the advisee to fix the “U”, and held a conversation with the advisee about the plan.  All of this done before the end of the next full school day.

Finally, #3, take a moment each day to either praise someone for doing something well or to thank someone who helped you get better that day.

In my desk, I found a stack of “praise notes” left over from years ago.  They had been buried under four years of paper and needed rescuing.  So, I decided I would write one every day.  In order to facilitate this habit, I refuse to put the stack of notes back in a drawer.  They now live on my desk right next to my computer.  My self-imposed rule is that I cannot go home until I write that day’s note.  We often forget to thank or recognize others, take time each day to do so.

With the opening of this program, we semi-officially start the 2012-2013 school year.  I am very eager to get started and, as always, appreciative of your decision to join us.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

3 ideas for this school year and an invitation to join me

Many schools have already started.  The school I serve opens classes just after Labor Day.  Inevitably, ideas I had over the summer are moving from theoretical to practical.  In a very Darwinian struggle, the better ideas are living to see another day while the weaker ones are naturally finding their place lower on my priority list.

However, here are three things that I am doing this year that  may be of use to you.  I am interested in finding others who will join me with these ideas and, possibly, report back here on The Art of Education about how these ideas are working out.

#1 - Praise Notes

A number of years ago, I received a sample packet of praise notes.  Basically, these are simple carbon paper notes to give at will to thank someone or recognize their efforts.  I used a couple of them, but after a couple of job changes and moves, I lost track of the notes.  As fate would have it, I was cleaning out my office this summer and found the notes stashed away in the back of a drawer.

My idea is simple.  Use one praise note each day.

In order to help create this habit, I have decided to write my note at the end of the day.  In other words, my cue is the end of my day (after packing up my laptop). I will not allow myself to leave until the note is written.  My reward for writing the note is going home (not because I don't like school, I love seeing my children more).  One other adjustment I made for this idea was to leave the pack of notes out on my desk next to my phone.  If I put them away in the drawer, I may forget.  Leaving them out forces me to remember.

#2 - No "U" policy for my advisees

Every student in the division I lead (6th - 8th grade) is assigned a faculty advisor.  These groups of no more than ten students (same grade, same sex) meet ever morning for 20-25 minutes.  As a division, we also keep a record of student effort in every class with effort reports.  Effort reports are compiled every two weeks by every teacher.  Teachers give students either a "S" (satisfactory) or "U" (unsatisfactory).

It is virtually impossible for a student to "slip through the cracks."

Once complied, effort reports are sent to the faculty advisors.  Advisors use these reports to engage with advisees about their work and to help them get back on track as necessary.

This year, I am instituting a zero "U" policy in my advisory group (7th grade boys).  Modeled after the zero injury policy at ALCOA (you can read about it in Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business), if/when one of my advisees gets a "U" in effort, I will have a conversation with that student and the teacher who gave the "U" to find out exactly how that happened AND have a plan to help the student get back to the "S" range for the next report.  The conversations and plan will be finished before the end of the next school day.

#3 - Double action self-evaluation for my class

After taking a year off from a classroom assignment, I am jumping back in.  This year, instead of 7th grade history, I am leading a section of 10th grade history.  I used to teach 10th grade, so this is not a totally foreign concept to me, but I do realize that 10th graders and 7th graders are quite different.  And I want to use that difference to our (me and the class) collective advantage.

One way I plan to do that is to use a "double action" self-evaluation.  Here's how it works.

First, I will designate certain days as Class DASE (pronounced like DAYS) which stands for...Double Action Self-Evaluation.

Second, on those "dase" students will start class with a simple form that asks them to rate themselves on they their PREDICTED performance in class will be that day on a 10 point scale (10 being excellent, 0 being non-existent).  Each number (score) will have a brief description of what that number means (level of engagement, quality of responses, etc.) to help students.  Once completed, students will place the forms in a box (or some other collection device).

Third, at the end of that SAME class, students will fill out a second DASE form to rate themselves about how they perceive their ACTUAL performance.  Once completed, they will, again, place their forms in the collection.

Fourth, I will read through the forms and compare the two from each student.  As I do so, I will take notes about any discrepancies or disagreements I have with the student's evaluation and set up a conversation to talk about those issues.

Finally, I will average the two self-evaluations and give each student a class participation grade for the day based solely on THEIR evaluation.

If you like these ideas, pass them along to others.  If you want to join me in trying them out, feel free.  If you have tried one (or more) of these before, how did it work?  Are you still doing it?  If not, why?

 Feedback is always welcomed.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Responsibilities vs. "Rest-ponsibilities" for teachers

Teachers are faced with a multitude of responsibilities.  Some teachers, unfortunately, focus more on their "rest-ponsibilities."  Here are 5 of each (in no particular order).  When you finish reading them, take the quiz.

5 Responsibilities 

  1. Get to know your students' strengths and challenges
  2. Have a clear goal and plan for the lesson and for guiding your students
  3. Nurture an environment that encourages growth and risk taking
  4. Provide helpful feedback including suggestions for how to improve AND how you will help
  5. Make learning fun

 5 "Rest-ponsibilities"
  1. Concerned about when your "free period" falls in the schedule (if you even have one).
  2. Get to school early do get a parking spot that allows them to leave faster at the end of the day
  3. Use faculty work room (lounge) as a forum to complain about students
  4. Plan annual announcement on Facebook about how much you can't wait until the next holiday or summer vacation
  5. Consider solutions to be someone else's job (usually an administrator)

Now, try this quiz.
  • Which do you spend more time thinking about?
  • For which do you spend more time planning?
  • Which do you look forward to the most?
  • Which is more invigorating?
  • Which is more rewarding?
  • Which do you identify with the most as a teacher?
  • With which would your colleagues identify you?
  • With which would your students identify you?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Student-centered is NOT anti-teacher

Before we get into the meat of this post, I want to come to a mutual understanding.  In a perfect world, all teachers love their students, are only concerned with their well-being, and work in the teens of hours/day to do a great job.

That is in the perfect world.

The reality is that both you and I have worked with teachers who are NOT those things.  They complain endlessly about every discomfort of the job.  They are much more ready to say negative things about their students.  When holidays approach, they are shouting praise and glory form the rooftops (or on their Facebook pages).

Of course, they will also say that they are blowing off steam and never take that attitude into the classroom.

Yea, right.  Kids are very perceptive and, eventually, true colors are revealed.

Also based on my experience, this description is applicable to a very small population of teachers.  The vast majority of those I have met are anything BUT what I describe above.  However, education is more of a team sport than most would believe and even a small number of naysayers can undo or derail the efforts of a larger group of well-meaning teachers.

Think about it.

If every negative thing you say in a relationship takes at least five (and sometimes up to 20) positive things to undo the damage of the one negative, you can possibly assume that for every one teacher who "doesn't get it" you may need from 5 - 20 teachers "cut from a different cloth" to counter-act the negative.  This too presents an issue because negative teachers are not lone wolves.  They find another like them and feed off of each other's negativity.  Negative teachers travel in packs.  So, now you need twice as many positive teachers than before.

The purpose of this somewhat extensive set-up is to throw out the observation that teachers who are often quick to shoot down any new idea about how to help students are also the ones who are among the more negative.  Instead of being inquisitive, entrepreneurial, or collaborative; these teachers view new ideas for being more student-centered as an attack on them.  They confuse innovative student-centered ideas with promoting an anti-teacher agenda.

When the door to productive discourse and conversation is closed, all communication begins to appear confrontational.  As the 2012-2013 school year begins, let us keep in mind that we may always agree with everything we hear, but let us also not confuse student-centered with anti-teacher.  Keep the door open, protect a forum to discuss ideas without fear of ridicule, ask questions, seek clarification, try something new, value informed opinions, and share what you know with others in a way that moves your essential conversation forward.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The 10 Standards of THRIVAPY: A glimpse into my new book.

Over the past year or so, I have been allowing the idea for my next book to emerge organically out of my writing, note taking, reading, and blogging.  The result is my most current work-in-progress, Thrivapy.

Thrivapy is, basically, a manifesto on finding more success and satisfaction with your work, art, responsibilities, etc.  It is shaping up to be my most ambitious book yet, but my goal is to have it ready and available before the end of 2012.

I am going to share more about Thrivapy is the coming weeks and months.  However, for you, I want to share the very first glimpse into Thrivapy.

The book is organized around the 10 Standards of Thrivapy.  Here they are.

  1. The standard of satisfaction is not perfection.
  2. You don't need to win them all.  Win more than you lose (and win the most important ones).
  3. Understand how goals work for you and how you work for goals.
  4. Find the joy.
  5. Opportunities are abundant.
  6. You always have choices.  However, they may not always be the choices you want.
  7. Do the best with the choices you have and work to create more of the choices you want.
  8. The best get better.
  9. To err is human, but so is to learn.
  10. Adopt an "Open House" philosophy (Friendly, Responsive, Interactive, Trustworthy, Reliable).  
Now that you have an idea about what Thrivapy is going to discuss, it is your turn.

I appreciate your comments, feedback, or suggestions.  If you have a story that fits into one of the standards above, I would love to hear or read it.  I may even ask if I can use it in the book.

Also, if you are so inclined, I would appreciate you spreading the word about Thrivapy and checking back often for more updates and insights.

Thank you very much for your support and attention.

For more about my other books, and me, feel free to visit my Amazon Author Central Page.  If you have already read one of my previous books, please consider leaving a comment or review.  

Suggestions and advice are always welcome.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The expert on YOU

Ultimately, the one thing you know better than anyone else is you.  After all, nobody has spent more time with you than you.  Nobody has thought about you as much as you.  Nobody has invested as much time in developing you as you.

You are THE expert on you.

However, you are not alone.

Somewhere, there is someone who shares some of the same qualities that make up you.  Someone else enjoys classic country music.  Someone else reads Seth's Blog.  Someone else reads on a Kindle.

The list goes on.

In your class, someone also loves American history, likes reading poetry, loves solving math problems,  and can't wait to test their hypothesis.

The thing to remember is that as the expert on YOU, the goal is not to create junior versions of YOU.  The goal should be to allow the shared elements of YOU and THEM to feed off of one another. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

You as a prime example

 Sooner or later, someone you know or someone who heard about you will be having a conversation and something being discussed will remind them of you.  At least it will remind them of what they perceive is you. Then you become their prime example of (fill in the blank).

This may make you feel a little  uneasy.  That's natural.  Unfortunately, you don't have much control over whether or not someone else decides to talk about you.

You do, however, have quite a bit of control over how you interact with others and, thus, can influence which blank is filled in above.  Perfection is not the standard, but the negative can be an obvious outlier as an example of you.

Perception is often reality.  There are two basic ways to shape perception.

1.  Personal experience

2.  Base it on what you hear from others

Not everyone who has an opinion of you will have had personal experience.  Many will have only based it on  what their friends experienced.

Your meeting tomorrow is not just with the person on the calendar.  It is with everyone they come into contact with as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The chicken and egg aspect of effective school technology leadership

I usually do not post much about effective school technology leadership .  This is not because I am tech adverse.  On the contrary, I have embraced technology's place as a powerful engagement and productivity tool in school.  The fact is I just do not spend much time reflecting on the leadership aspects of school technology.

Today, however, I have decided to jump into the pool on Leadership Day 2012.

Here it goes.

What came first?  The chicken or the egg?

Heard that one already, huh?  Well, how about this one.

What needs to come first?  School leadership that embraces technology or a technologist who embraces school leadership?

Yes, many principals, division heads, heads of school, superintendents, etc. are realizing how technology can enhance the learning environment, but in their roles as instructional leaders, technology presents a challenge.  Most of these leaders were former teachers, but not in a technological sense.  They were Math, History, English, Science, etc. teachers.  Some may have worked in admissions or development departments and had limited instructional backgrounds.

For these leaders, the potential impact of technology to empower teachers and students to engage in genuine learning is hard to understand.  They may simply not be immersed in technology enough to fully grasp the potential.  Unless they make a true commitment to understanding and embracing technology in their current roles, they are more reliant on their technology "specialist" for answers.

On the other hand, as technology experts and directors of technology integration gain school experience and move through their own career paths, I suspect more and more of them will become principals, division heads, heads of school, and superintendents.  When this happens, it will be interesting to see how the learning environments in our school will change.

Technological advances have had a huge impact on how schools operate, and this all has occurred under the leadership of leaders who have not had much of a formal background in technology.

What will be the impact when the school technologists move into formal leadership roles?

Monday, August 13, 2012

How educators should use "The Stumped Factor"

"Smart" teachers ask good questions.  One good area to question involves finding your students' intellectually "fertile fields" to sow the "seeds of wisdom."

How do you locate those fields?

1.  Ask questions (see the post linked to above).  Asking good questions gauges student understanding and interests.

2.  Do not allow the first "I don't know" to work.  Many times, students use "I don't know" to get them "off the hook."  When you get "I don't know" ask again using different language.  Then ask again.  Once you get three "I don't know" answers, it is probably genuine.

3.  The point at which the student is truly "stumped" presents a potential area to explore. Of course, the real exploration is done by the student with you as the guide.  Remember, if the answer or new skill presented by The "Stumped" Factor is particularly difficult for the student, help them focus on WHAT needs to be done to GET BETTER rather than WHY they are trying to learn it at all.  Focusing on "what" and "getting better" will help maintain motivation when trying to do something fairly difficult or unknown.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fear of failure...or success?

I continue to see numerous articles and blog posts about fear of failure.  Specifically, most of these articles are written about not fearing failure.  The point being that not fearing failure will free oneself to take necessary risks that allow one to achieve higher levels of success.

This post is not a critique of those opinions, I think they are valid and necessary.  However, one aspect of achievement in schools that is rarely, if ever, discussed is overcoming fear of success.

Here are a few observations and thoughts to consider about failure.

1.  By and large, we are a very forgiving society.  If someone is working towards a noble goal, does their best, and falls a little short, we are generally very supportive and willing to give them more chances.

2.  Even if the goal is selfish, failure followed by reconciliation and eventual triumph earned by the lesson learned is the basis of many of our hero stories.

3.  When you fail, it is often easy to see where things went wrong.  Questions about the next try are relatively easy to answer because you have a foundation for your vision based on your failed experience.

However, when we reflect on success...

1.  Society seems to enjoy knocking those on top down a few notches.  In other words, we like to "keep them honest."

2.  Once you succeed, anything less than total success seems acceptable.  Have you ever heard an athlete, after winning a championship, say, "Well, now that I've done that I can go back to being on an average team."

3.  Your identity changes with success.  This can be very difficult.  One day you are a productive member of the faculty.  The next day, you are now considered a "master teacher."  One day you are a warehouse clerk.  The next, you are a lottery winner/millionaire.  You know you now, but who you will become is unknown.

4.  Very little pressure is applied to failures.  We simply do not expect much fro those who never reach their goals.  Successful people are under pressure because for those who have much to offer, much is expected...and we generally expect more from those who have demonstrated the ability to do great things.

The school year is approaching.  Many teachers and administrators are preparing for students to arrive.  If you are among the many who are contemplating a change, trying something new, or considering a bold plan to achieve a noble goal, here is my question.

Is it fear of failure that is keeping you from moving forward or is it a fear of success?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Profession altering moments

 When we examine the course of our lives, we tend to remember certain events that, in hindsight, were life altering moments.  For me, I remember choosing which college I would attend, getting married, the birth of my daughter while exiled during hurricane Katrina, the birth of my son while I was out of state on business (he decided to come earlier than our scheduled delivery), and successfully defending my doctoral dissertation.

Professionally, we also experience powerful moments that were similarly powerful.  These are what I call profession altering moments.  I purposely do not call them career altering moments, because those tend to involve changing careers.  With profession altering moments, we go through a transformation of what it truly means to be a professional in our chosen field.

One such moment occurred when I was coaching baseball and had a serious disciplinary infraction take place during an away game which resulted in the cutting of a number of players from the team and ending our season early due to lack of players.  Essentially we had to forfeit the remainder of our games.  This moment led me to a greater interest in school administration and my first administrative post as an Upper School Dean of Students.

Another profession altering moment was during and after Hurricane Katrina during which, while waiting for my daughter to be born, I maintained contacts and  communication with teachers and families displaced all over the country.  I, too, was displaced having evacuated to Memphis to live with friends (thanks, guys!).  After returning to New Orleans, our school was in decent shape and could open for students.  Pre-storm our school served about 800 students in grades PK - 8.  After the storm, we ballooned to near 1300 students from all over the area whose families were desperate to find a place to send their children each day.  As assistant principal, I was very involved in coordinating the effort to care for those students; which we were able to do without many problems.

The point here is not to retell my story.  Rather, it is to highlight the fact that we are presented with opportunities to alter our perception of our professional lives, but those opportunities are often hidden within an unexpected and seemingly overwhelming challenge.  As educators, challenges are never in short supply.  However, we tend to look upon them as distractions from what we want to accomplish or roadblocks to what we believe we should do.  The implication here is not to ignore these challenges, but rather recognize them for their potential for growth as well as their potential for set-back.

Here is a two-part plan for turning challenges into growth opportunities (and potentially profession altering moments).

Part 1:  State the challenge as a "but" statement; then change the "but" to "and."  For example:  "I want to provide extra help outside of class to students, BUT I coach after school and cannot arrive any earlier each day."  This statement changes to, "I want to provide extra help outside of class, AND I coach after school and cannot arrive earlier each day."

Part 2:  Take the new statement, and "therefore" to the end and finish the statement.  For example:  "I want to provide extra help outside of class, AND I coach after school and cannot arrive earlier each day.  THEREFORE, I can . . ."

Forcing yourself to come up with WHAT you CAN do in the face of your challenge not only provides a map to success, but also a path to a profession altering moment.  Hopefully, your challenge will not include a hurricane hitting your school.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Getting better: Teachers, students, and schools

If you stop long enough to take stock of our professional development, you may see that the areas in which you are better today than when you began are the result of an accumulation of smaller gains.  In other words, you are better today than you were before not because of any one major event, but as a result of how you grew in relation to the multiple events and opportunities that have been presented along the way.

Similarly, students get better as they experience the opportunities to learn presented by the school.  In almost every circumstance, students get better as a result of the overall experience, not specifically any ONE event (though they may only remember some truly remarkable instances that stand out in their memory).

Schools also seek to get better.  However, as many schools look outside of their walls for solutions for getting better, they can sometimes overlook the many opportunities presented each day within the school.  Here are a few examples:
  • Teachers who have talents that are not being respected and nurtured for the betterment of your program
  • Students who give outstanding efforts, but are taken for granted because their grades are very good
  • Administrators with a vision for success that is being overwhelmed by bureaucracy
A great idea will not make you, the students, or the school better.  It is the execution of that idea by those who are behind, within, and among the idea.  The students, teachers, and administrators who seem to constantly get better are those who focus on making incremental progress and are willing to share the results of their work.
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