Enemies to Excellence in Education

May 16, 2017

Riley Johnson

I just got done reading, “The Enemies of Excellence”, by Greg Salciccioli.  Salciccioli takes a deeper look at the risks we face when on the pursuit to the best us we can be.  After reading the book, it made me wonder what, as educator’s, our enemies of excellence are.  Saciccioli highlights SEVEN enemies, I will apply each one to our effort to provide the best learning opportunities for students we can.

1. Egotism

Pride can be a dangerous thing.  When reflecting on this enemy, it makes me think also about Jim Collin’s book, “Good to Great”.  So many times as educators, we are okay with good, because it works.  Being content in schools and classrooms can be dangerous and lead to stagnation.  Putting our ego and pride to the side and striving to be an organism of continuous improvement is a must for all educators.

2. Life Mismanagement

How many times as educators have we been unhappy with something, take 45 minutes of our prep to vent to someone about it, and then realize we could have actually completed the task we were unhappy with in that time.  Time is one of the most scarce commodities we have as educators, but also the one we misuse the most.  I encourage all educators to have someone audit the work they are doing.  Let them poke holes in your work and help you find ways to be more effective and efficient with the time you do have.

3. Bad Habits

Identifying our bad habits is one thing, putting systems in place to fix them is another.  So many educators have positive intentions with the work they do, but our bad habits get in the way of our desired outcomes.  As a principal, I have a strong desire to be in the classroom more.  However, I have a bad habit of letting other tasks creep into the time I allot for it.  Until I do something to fix it, I only have myself to blame.

4. Indulgence

What do you as an educator indulge in?  What is it that you feel entitled to?  Our view of hard work and dedication can many times drive us to feel like we deserve something in return.  Context drives this a lot.  I am blessed to work in a state of the art school that implements wall-to-wall project-based learning.  It is easy to get frustrated when a kid doesn’t bring their device on a certain day.  When I step back and reflect, I have friends that work in schools that feel blessed when they get a day each semester in the computer lab.  Perspective is killer.

5. Broken Relationships

Back to that intentions thing.  Educators are some of the most passionate people you will meet.  However, many times our emotions and opinions get in the way of moving towards a collective efficacy with our peers.  Also, how many times do we get frustrated with that kid that just “doesn’t get it”.  Broken relationships can fracture any interaction we have with our fellow educators or students.  What are we doing to rebuild and repair these relationships even when we don’t think we are at fault?

6. Isolation

Silo’s only create more silo’s.  Even in the era of one-room schoolhouses, the teacher couldn’t do it all by themselves.  Professional learning communities are hard work and take time and energy.  But working in a collaborative environment gives us the opportunity to receive feedback, implement changes, and analyze results.  Sometimes it feels easier to shut your door and do your own thing.  But in the long run, you are only hurting yourself.  The Observe Me hashtag and movement has been an awesome way to invite feedback and not live in isolation.

7. Self-sabotage

The hardest of all the enemies of excellence.  How do we not get in our own way as educators?  I remember as a classroom teacher, sometimes thinking, “That lesson design was really good.  Only if the students would have done a better job with _______.”  Externalizing the enemy is the easier out.  What if I would have said, “That lesson design was really good.  How could I have tweaked it to reach more students on ___________?”  We sometimes can trick ourselves into doing something or not doing something for a variety of factors.  What does looking in the mirror look like when making that decision?

When we think about the enemies of excellence in education, many times we point to standardized testing, legislation, lack of resources, etc., etc.  What if we flipped that conversation on its head and began thinking about what personally is within our sphere of influence that we can control.  What are the enemies to our own excellence and what are the enemies to our school’s excellence?

– Riley

This blog originally appeared in Project-Based Life.