We have been made to think certain things are absolute truths for most of our lives. Take, for example, the saying that practice makes perfect. While this sounds great in theory and can be a great motivation to pursue growth opportunities, an underlying fallacy is embedded in this message. Take bowling, for example. The ultimate goal of any bowler is to reach a perfect score of 300 by getting nothing but strikes. By any standards, this is an impressive feat. While perfection can be achieved with the right amount of practice, you would be hard pressed to find any professional bowler who scores a 300 consistently. Hence the need to constantly practice improving performance.
Even though there are other examples of perfection in sports, every athlete works to get better. Hence, the message to all of us is that improving our practice is always possible, especially in the field of education. I genuinely believe that each and every educator has an innate desire to grow, but there are often stumbling blocks along the way that delay or derail an initiative. Time is probably the number one reason for improvement efforts becoming stifled. While this is a legitimate challenge, we all know full well that it will materialize at some point. Knowing this allows us to be proactive and make time to grow as opposed to finding time, which tends to be more reactive. I shared the following back in 2014:
Let’s face the perceived fact that there will never be enough time to get everything done in any of our days. Or is there? Regardless of your respective role in education, time will always be your enemy. This is where you need to focus less on finding time and more on making time to complete necessary tasks that are not only required but also ones that will allow you to grow, innovate, and develop more of a passion for your work. Before getting to this point, you must look at how you currently utilize the time you have. In my case, I was more of a manager as opposed to a leader.
I wrote extensively about chasing growth instead of perfection in Disruptive Thinking in Our Classrooms. While the assent to growth leading to improvement will endure many twists and turns, there are some things educators can zero in on, which I have listed below.
- Co-plan lessons, meetings, and professional learning
- De-emphasize non-essential tasks that don’t impact student learning
- Eliminate distractions such as social media and web browsing
- Prioritize passions and interests related to your position or responsibilities
- Seek collegial support as these people know you and your culture best.
- Develop a Personal Learning Network (PLN) to learn anytime, anywhere, with anyone you want
- Organize your learning environment such as email, physical space, and support materials to make the most of all available time
- Seek out challenging experiences that will push your practice to new levels
Improvement is a process, not a singular event. Growth and improvement start with honestly assessing our current reality. There is no perfect lesson, project, classroom, school, district, teacher, or administrator. There is, however, the opportunity to get better every day. Hence, improvement is always a possibility no matter how much experience you have in education.