“People do not fail in life because they aim too high and miss…”


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by http://heretakis.com

A superintendent was in one of my workshops with his administration team, and he raised his hand and said the following:

A lot of what you are talking about and sharing is great, but where would you find the time?

My heart sunk immediately.

Hearing the lead of an organization say that in front of his staff made what I was sharing optional.  What bothered me about the statement is that the work I was highlighting of so many teachers in our district, he acknowledged as being “great”, yet you could tell that it would never be something that he would see as a priority.

As an administrator, it is imperative that you have to be a “defender of time“, so you can’t do everything in your school, but if we were to take a look at a lot of the tasks that we do in school, do they lead to “great” or are they something we just do because we have always done it that way.  If we want to get better, we should look at what we need to do, while also what we need to get rid of.

If you look at any person that has done something awesome, the question that always comes up from others is “where did you find the time?”  It is not about time, but it is about an attitude and a way they live their life.  Most people that are really fit and in shape, don’t find the time, they make the time.  They know it is important and it is just what they do.  That’s it.  Is that any different from any endeavour?

Does every teacher have to be “great”?  Not necessarily, but I believe that this is something we should all strive for to benefit our students.  As I think of this notion, I heard this quote and it sticks out to me regarding this thought process:

“People do not fail in life because they aim too high and miss. They fail in life, because they aim too low and hit.” (Unknown)

Thoughts?

16 thoughts on ““People do not fail in life because they aim too high and miss…”

  1. Jason Porteous

    George,
    A very good post. Especially when it is about many of the strategies that you speak of that are quite easily embedded as a part of the daily practice of being a teacher. The time is always there to do what is best for our students and to improve our craft as teachers.

    1. Heather Ragot

      I think time is a relative commodity. We have to use what little time we have to meet multiple objectives. Also, if we reach out to others in the spirit of collaboration, we make time bend to our wills. When students tell me that “I have already done this in another class” then I know I am wasting time. All the time I have in the school day should be spent optimizing student engagement. How can we work as instructional teams to “double up” on learning objectives? How can we use our precious time to achieve our common goals? I truly believe that it is through imaginative and collaborative partnerships between teachers. Even in the high school, with its rigid time tables and curriculums there is plenty of room to groove!

  2. Angie Tarasoff

    Great post, George. It speaks to something I was thinking about this morning. In all of our hand-wringing about student engagement, have we stopped to ask if educators and staff are engaged?

    It seems to me that engaged educators and staff are interested, passionate, and willing to seek out new ideas, new ways of doing things, and then try them.

    Engagement is something of a two way street, I think. I have personal responsibility for my career, and to seek work that engages and excites me. I have personal responsibility for my attitude. The organization that I work for has a responsibility to create opportunities for me to explore, learn, and grow.

    That said, I wonder if your ideas could be presented to these groups as a shift of activity rather than an addition of activity. Sort of like, “you currently spend a lot of time trying to connect with your community, and sometimes, it probably feels like you’re not reaching them…by using social media more and using traditional methods a little less, you can reach a wider segment of your community faster. What do you suppose would happen if you shifted 10% of the time you spend communicating away from traditional channels and toward social media?”

    Might scope it down to a small change that very busy superintendents and leadership teams can get their arms around and lower the psychological barrier to change on that front…

  3. May

    It’s interesting that I’ve read your article today. I just finished a conversation with a teacher at private school, where I wanted to apply for experience. She told me if you are looking for good experience don’t apply here!
    I look for challenges always and easy things are boring for me.
    Yes. We would gain more if we pushed ourselves to think big. Life gets happier and tastier when we have big dreams.

  4. Robert Schuetz

    Once again George, you’ve got me thinking. Time is the most precious of commodities, but we cannot find it. As your quotation says, we have to make it. Prioritization is a skill. The difficult part for educators is letting go of the practices that have little or no impact on student learning, nor the enjoyment of learning. Last week’s Twitter Chat (#edchat), moderated by Tom Whitby covered this very concept. http://goo.gl/hfpe5
    Great minds, at times, do think alike!

  5. Tim Scholze

    George.
    First off, I am in total agreement with you. Just last week I wrote in my blog that teaching really is a 24/7/365 profession. I guess that not all teachers or administrators see it that way, but to me teaching and learning are as much a part of me as my soul. I give everything I can to teaching, sharing, and learning with others. Everything is exciting to learn about and the opportunities for learning and being actively engaged are almost endless.

    I just cannot fathom an administrator not being in favor of trying to achieve greatness. How can such people exist in our field and not want the best for students and staff? In my own life, I have been fortunate enough to collaborate and chat with some of the greatest teachers and learners in the world, your self included, but they all serve to make me want to achieve more and contribute more and to share more. Everyone is pulling together to try and help everyone else become better teachers and that in turn benefits our colleagues, our administrators, and our students.

    I think that sometimes people get too comfortable with their position within the profession. We need to try and help move these people from their comfort zones to a place where they become hungry for everyone to be the best person they can be. The administrator that you speak of above has become too comfortable.

    When I left my 14 year teaching career three years ago to be with my wife and children, I never expected in my wildest dreams that I would be outside our profession for three plus years. Most people say that I should just be grateful that I have a job, or that maybe doors have not opened back up in education because I am not meant to be a teacher, or there’s something better waiting. However, I refuse to give up, I refuse to throw in the towel, I refuse to allow my soul to be less than it was meant to be. I am a teacher, a life-long learner, and and I will strive to get back into my profession even if it takes the rest of my life. You might ask why? Because I aim high and I will not allow myself to be anything less than God intended, to be the best me I can possibly be (of course it would be helpful if there were just one administrator out there that wasn’t afraid of hiring me and then holding me to my word).

    Thanks for all you do, George!

  6. Julie Feeney

    I enjoy your reflections, George, all the way here in Australia…
    I agree with your observation that it’s not about the time but about the attitude…the challenge then is for leaders to cultivate in themselves and their colleagues that attitude. A future topic maybe?
    Thanks

  7. Maureen Devlin

    We miss so much when we don’t take the time to try explore new avenues for teaching. Yesterday, I introduced students to Google Earth and Sketch-Up The students were awestruck and didn’t miss a beat during a one-hour explore time. They were intersecting the two tools in wonderful ways both applying knowledge and learning new skill and knowledge. It’s a new world of learning, and if we don’t make the time to innovate and change, our students will be at a disadvantage.

  8. Bill Ferriter

    Hey Pal,

    I think the question that school leaders REALLY need to hear you answer is, “How do you identify and then stick to priorities?”

    Organizations that struggle have no real focus — which leaves teachers scrambling to keep up with the requirements of the seventeen different projects that their building is trying to tackle at any one time.

    Defending time means recognizing what IS and ISN’T a priority, right?

    Reminds me of this Doug Reeves quote:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/plugusin/7339384886/in/set-72157625087347140

    Hope you’re well!
    Bill

  9. Vicky Climatianos

    Hi George, I totally agree. Your reflections have very much highlighted the importance of ‘intentionality and purpose’ in having a clear focus on learning – “if staff/leaders keep doing the same thing, they will only get the same results”. Gaining clarity and asking ‘how’ will this further support students’ learning is a great way to begin conversation.
    Looking forward to be at your PD session tomorrow, DECD Adelaide.

  10. Lissa

    “People do not fail in life because they aim too high and miss. They fail in life, because they aim too low and hit.” (Unknown)

    I think that quote might be my new professional motto.

  11. Kyle Hoopes

    I’ve heard your quote in a different way and I hope I don’t offend anyone with it. “It is better to aim for the stars and miss, then to aim for a pile of manure and hit.” I try to live by that motto every day. I think it is great especially for students and teachers that feel like they aren’t accomplishing anything. It helps us all to remember to focus on growth and not just that we are getting a high score. Seeing how much growth is happening with a student is a lot more satisfying than focusing just on an end result.

  12. Stu Harris

    Those administrators, teachers, leaders or others who ask the question “where would you find the time” in situations that obviously provide examples of “great” should be prepared to have what they do find the time for in school examined.

    I have heard the comment in my work a thousand times. My usual answer is that in most cases we have to first find and then quit doing those things that we know are not effective and create the time to dow hat is right.

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