DAILY INSIGHT: The concept of excellence

The best teachers are the most reflexive. 
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The best teachers are the most reflexive. 

By Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor

A few days ago, I was watching Olympic half pipe snowboarding. I watched the athletes doing moves that would most likely land me in traction, if not in a wheel chair. However, they all started small doing tricks on their neighborhood sledding hills and probably eating some snow.

Earlier in the same day, I listened as a group of teachers shared with some visitors about preparing for the move to 1:1 instruction. They gave the sage advice that teachers should focus on one or two points and work on becoming comfortable with those before expanding their use of the tablets. As an example, one teacher focused on using the tablets for bell work each day. Another used them for collaborative writing exercises. Soon, through other teachers and student innovation, these teachers had a well-developed bag of tricks in which to use instructionally.

How do we continue to motivate ourselves to strive towards excellence everyday for the benefit of our students? What can we learn from the Olympians about how to continue to improve our craft? How do we strive to improve our technology systems every day? Do we look at our daily work in the same way the athletes do—that we need to try to improve toward perfection—or are we able to simply sit back and be comfortable in that we are doing “good work?” Is good work enough or should we be striving for real excellence every day? In the days where I regularly evaluated teachers, I found those teachers who were reflective and sought to analyze and improve on their craft were the best teachers with the greatest potential. They were also the most likely to be unhappy with their performances.

The other thing that I heard from the teachers was that they felt able to strive for excellence because they felt that their supervisors had given them license to fail without having to worry about making mistakes and in fact to expect that there would be mistakes and bad days. So, failure and excellence seem to be two sides of the same coin in many ways. Those who strive for excellence are, at the same time, not afraid to fail. What can we do to help ourselves and our teammates overcome the fear of failure and strive for excellence every day? Our students and our communities all deserve that we strive for excellence.

Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has written several books on aspects of library and technology management and planning. Follow North Boone on Twitter @NBCUSD200.