Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Good is the Enemy of Great

The latest book I have been reading has sparked another series of thoughts that after bouncing around in my head for a few days, I have garnered enough nerve to finally sit down and write. The book is by Jim Collins titled: "Good to Great". Collins and a group of researchers spent several years studying how good companies became great. This is a business centered book, but I found several parallels between his intended audience and education.

The very first chapter hit me like a ton of bricks: GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF GREAT. Now, I consider myself a pretty good teacher, so I was slightly offended by the title. What is wrong with being good? I work very hard at my craft and do not feel being "just good" is a negative. I almost closed the book and gave it back to my brother, whom I borrowed the book from.

I am glad I continued reading. I began to realize that when people settle for just being good, it prevents them from reaching their fullest potential. They become stagnant and okay with the status quo. How many times have we heard our fellow teachers utter the phrase, "Why do I need (insert latest educational pedagogy, tech program or buzz word here), my test scores are good enough? I do not need it." These teachers are not willing (or maybe able) to push themselves to go to the next level. I believe these are the people that Mr. Collins was referencing with his statement above.

"Just being" good is a disease that may be incurable. After some reflection, these are the people that we need to keep our young teachers away from. Do not get me wrong, many times good teachers are successful for a few years, maybe even several. I believe this is the group that begins to flounder when there is a paradigm shift, or new way of thinking. These individuals resolutely stand their ground, resting on past successes, refusing to change or modify. Little do they realize, everyone else is passing them by.

As a side note, there is nothing wrong with being a good teacher. I am proud to say my kids have had several good teachers at school, and they both learned a lot from these dedicated individuals. Their classes were always fun and educational. My kids raved about these teachers, mad when we "forced" them to stay home because they were sick.

So, what about the group of us that works hard at running a successful, organized, engaging classroom? We subscribe to blogs to stay fresh on new methods to reach more students. We are involved in Social Media to connect with educators from around the world. We thrive on conversations that challenge our way of thinking, either changing our minds about a topic or reaffirming our original thoughts. We secretly want to be observed by administrators more to encourage discussion about what we may need to improve upon.

That, I believe, is the difference. If you are trying to find ways to improve your craft, I believe you are on the road to Greatness. I do not think Greatness is a destination. I do not know if you ever get there. But, that might be the subliminal message Mr. Collins is conveying: do not settle...keep seeking out ways to improve...keep working hard. The path to greatness is lined with it.


Kimberly Hurd Horst said...

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better and your better is best.”

― Tim Duncan
Thanks for pushing me to think about this today. This sign is in my office at school. There isn't room in the area where I teach students. But that's okay. I need it. I push myself hard to be better. settling isn't in my vocab. I dislike fence sitters and mediocracy...I also think that if the grass looks better on the other side of the fence, it's time to water your own grass. Push yourself to move from good to better to best. Thanks for sharing !

Jim Cordery said...

Thanks for the comment, Kim. I really like the saying about the grass being greener...does a great job of summarizing my thinking as well. Thanks again.

Drew Frank said...

I enjoyed this book as well. I completely agree the greatness is in the process of trying to better ever tomorrow than you are today. If perceived as a destination, one risk stagnation which would lead quickly from greatness to much worse place. I also think this is essential to model for our students.

Debbie Axiak said...

Great post Jim! I'm going to be teaching primary for the first time in September and everyone says "Don't worry, you'll be fine" or "You'll be so good with that age group". But I don't want to be fine or good. I'm expecting to meet great students who try, question, create, learn and grow & they deserve a teacher who does the same.