Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading Above the Line by Urban Meyer. The title of Chapter 5 is “Competitive Excellence”. At the very beginning of the chapter Urban states that, “The best ‘gamers’ are the best ‘practicers’.” Makes perfect sense, right? However as this statement began to sink in for me, I realized that there is one glaring difference between elite athletes and elite educators. Athletes have the benefit of practice! Remember what Urban said? “The best ‘gamers’ are the ‘practicers’.” But, wait, we don’t get to practice. Educators must be at the top of their game every day. We have 180 days with our students and it’s “game on” from Day 1. Not one of those 180 days is practice days.
So what do we do? How do we become elite performers when we don’t get a chance to practice? Luckily for us, Urban has the answer to this question in his book as well. He says, “Elite performers don’t get to that level by accident, but through great coaching and careful attention to preparation.” Coaches! That’s right. We must use our coaches.
Since I became a principal four years ago, I have said time and time again that it is my goal to create a culture of coaching in my building. By this I mean, a culture in which it is deemed unacceptable to not ask questions, reflect on practice and seek out the expertise of others. It is amazing to watch this culture take shape. Over the years I have seen staff members go from anxious and uncertain first year teachers, to educators who are mentoring new teachers, leading data team conversations and confidently making decisions that are positively impacting the lives of students. I’ve seen ELL teachers who were transferred to my building become valued members of our staff. These ELL teachers have coached classroom teachers as they learned to work with students who speak languages other than English. I have seen veteran teachers step up and say “the way I used to teach doesn’t work anymore and I’m trying something new.”
When the teachers on a staff trust one another enough to grow together, reflect together and coach one another, amazing things happen. What makes a staff truly ELITE is when they’re not afraid to say that they’re not satisfied with the work they do. I am so happy to work with a staff that isn’t satisfied. We want to be better than we are today because our students deserve it.
Meyer, Urban (2015-10-27). Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season (pp. 104-105). Penguin Publishing Group.
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.