A few weeks ago I wrote post called "This is Not a Drill". The post was about the importance of panic and a sense of urgency. Ever since that post, I’ve been thinking that in addition to the importance of panicking when necessary, we as educators must commit! And by commit, I mean we must commit to the relentless pursuit of excellence. Our students deserve it. Our colleagues deserve it. Our community deserves it.
In this world in which we live it’s very easy to jump on every new bandwagon that comes along. We live in a world in which we are exposed to new ideas, trends and buzzwords everywhere we turn. But, we as educators must know what our expectations are, what we believe in, what we are committed to.
In Seth Godin’s latest blog post, he writes about the “quality abyss". As I read the post and applied his message to education, I began to reflect on the following:
What do I pay attention to? What have I stopped paying attention to?
Have I lowered my expectations? Or, am I the person who is constantly raising my expectations?
Do I have “the guts to care even when it feels like I am not being rewarded”? What is the eventual payoff for having the guts to care?
Falling down the quality abyss-Seth Godin
Attention stops being paid, compromises are made, quality goes down.
Expectations aren't met.
Expectations are lowered.
Customers drift away.
Budgets are cut, because there are fewer customers.
Quality erodes even more, because there's less to spend, and employees care less.
The alternative is the quality ratchet:
Over-focus on quality.
Expectations go up.
Sales rise as a result of word of mouth and customer satisfaction.
More money is spent on quality.
Often, organizations don't realize that they're falling down the abyss until extraordinary efforts are required to make a difference. But it's always easier to fix it today than it will be tomorrow.
And here's the hard part: You don't fall down the abyss all at once. You compromise, you cut corners, you don't bring as much to your work, and nothing bad happens (at first). So the feedback loop is broken.
Working your way back out works the same way: You work harder, you raise your standards, you invest, and nothing good happens (at first).
The challenge is to have the guts to care even when you're not apparently rewarded for caring.
In my opinion the most powerful words in Seth’s post are these, “…it’s always easier to fix it today than it will be tomorrow.” Along the same lines, Dan Rockwell reminds us to “err on the side of soon”. I often remind teachers to “pay now or pay later”. The bottom line is that we need to decide what we are committed to and we cannot stop paying attention to it. We must stay the course and follow through. The payoff will come, but not without an intentional, committed investment on our part.
So, what are you committed to? Don’t let yourself fall down the quality abyss.
This is an exciting time in education. We are being asked to challenge the status quo. We are expected not only to be great, but instead to be ELITE. It is easy for educators to continue to instruct students the way they were taught 10, 15, 20 or even 30 years before. It is easy for educators to do things like give spelling tests or worksheets for homework because parents expect it, even though we know that these practices are not best for kids. What isn’t easy is to stand up and stop it. It isn’t easy to be the early innovator; the one who is out ahead of the curve disrupting the status quo. And sometimes, it’s even harder to be the first follower or early adopter of those new innovative ideas. But, we must decide who we want to be. We have the choice to lag behind and wait or we can choose to be out ahead of the curve, disrupting, creating a movement. In the following short TED Talk by Derek Sivers we learn the importance of having the guts to stand up and be the first one to join a movement.
This school year, my staff and I have been invited to be disruptive educators. We have been charged with the task of redesigning elementary education. And, we’ve been given a timeline to adhere to. By August of 2017 we will be ready to give children a different, innovative, personalized elementary school experience. And, we have accepted the challenge. In order to accomplish our goal we must overcome our fears, we will need to unlearn and relearn new skills; we will need to be early innovators…disrupters!
In this post by Dr. Sanee Bell the qualities of disruptive educators are outlined.
Disrupters find their people.
Disrupters move beyond the conversation.
As we are thrust into an innovative experience that forces us to disrupt it will be important that we reflect on ourselves. Do we possess the qualities of disruptive educators? How can we build the skills within us to disrupt education in a positive way?
Our time is now!
I hope my blog posts inspire risk taking and new ways of thinking. I hope to connect with other educators on our journey to always do what's best for children.