Average or Excellent?

Which would you rather be? Average or excellent? It is a simple question, yet one with profound impact. Most of us would say that we want excellent, but then our lives, and our schools, reflect average. I know this all too well as I review some of what we’ve done at my school. We haven’t always strived for excellence. We’ve strived to get by. I could make all sorts of excuses as to why we did what we did. In the end, it was easier. 

Let me say so that everyone is clear: THIS WAS MY FAULT! If you are leader and your organization settles for average, it’s your fault. In the movie Remember the Titans, one of the players says “Attitude reflects leadership… captain.” That is true in sports, in business, and in education. If our teams are only seeking average, it is because we are only seeking average. This was a hard truth for me to learn.

After a particularly difficult year, I sat and reflected and questioned why I was in education and why I was in administration. Rather than quitting and heading off for a real estate job (that seems to be what former administrators seem to do in our neck of the woods), I committed to making a change in my life and in my school. That summer, at our Missouri ACTE summer conference, one of the presenters, and don’t ask me who, made the statement that we needed to “relentlessly pursue excellence.” I needed to lift my chin and wipe some tears away. I had not been pursuing excellence, and if I wasn’t pursuing excellence, why would my teachers?

That school year we made some changes.  The rest of the staff knew that things would be different. Not only was I going to pursue excellence for myself, we would be pursuing excellence for the school. That meant focusing on our instructional strategies. It meant that I had to be better at communication. It meant that we would expect our students to perform to the best of their ability. It meant we lost some students, because they did not want to excel. They wanted to coast and be average. It meant that we had to change some perceptions of academic teachers about what happens in a CTE classroom. We brought in some academic teachers and let them see the rigor that is CTE. We are pursuing excellence.

Thankfully, the word “pursue” means that this is a journey. We still have our bumps and fumbles. We get knocked back (think March 2020 and total shut down), but we relentlessly get back, evaluate what went wrong, and seek excellence.

I’m not sure where you are or what you are pursuing. Maybe you have been pursuing excellence? Maybe, though, you are coasting to average. In either case, remind yourself to relentlessly pursue excellence!