I’m a regular reader of The Ririan Project blog and came across a very interesting post on lessons learned from Steve Jobs. As I read over the 10 quotes shared in the posting, there are some great nuggets in there:
- Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.
- I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.
- We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here?
Good stuff. However there was one quote that really spoke to me. It’s one that I think I may blow up and post on a wall within eyesight so it can serve as a daily inspiration in my work, in my schooling, and in my family life:
Be a yardstick of quality. Some people arenâ€™t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
I have to believe that most of us who are engaged in this virtual community of educational blogging – be it teachers, principals, or superintendents – do share a commitment to excellence. But unfortunately, it’s not an expectation or a commitment shared universally by everyone in our organizations.
I don’t have the solution that will motivate the 32-year-retired-on-the-job veteran teacher, but as leaders in schools, districts, and classrooms, what we do every day – what others see us spending our time doing – will set the benchmark for those around us. It’s far too easy to slip back into maintaining the status quo and be comfortable with that. "Hey – my school is above average on all state tests," is not something I’m comfortable staking my reputation on. "Well, that’s great," I’d say. "But what’s it going to take to be excellent?"
Working in a district on academic watch has been quite a lemons-into-lemonade experience. It has forced everyone from district leadership to classroom teachers to re-examine what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how it aligns with what we’re supposed to be doing. It is only by modeling high standards and living a commitment to bringing the best teachers, resources, and instruction to our kids that we will move off of "watch" status.
I’m confident that we’ve been taking positive steps and I expect we’ll be "off watch" this year or next, but that can’t be good enough. I don’t want our teachers to be satisfied working in a school where the goal is to be "off of academic watch." I want to work in a school where the goal is nothing short of excellence from our kids, our staff, and ourselves. And the buck stops with us – the school leaders. And by "school leaders" I don’t just mean those of us with official titles on our office doors – I mean those teacher leaders who always believe that they could be doing just a little bit better, or the librarian (er – media specialist) who believes she could eek out just a few more dollars for an additional computer or two, or the custodian who works just a little harder to make the building a warm, inviting place for kids to come…
If our commitment to and expectation of excellence is visible, those around us will rise to the occasion. If we accept "status quo," those around us will also be willing to accept less than the best.