Sunday, March 27, 2016

Are We Settling?



“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.” 
Thomas Merton


I rarely watch television other than news and sporting events and it is rarer still that I notice any advertising campaigns on those infrequent occasions when I am watching TV. However, this month is probably my heaviest television-watching month of the entire calendar year due to college basketball’s March Madness, which remains my favorite sporting event ever. During this year’s March Madness tournament, I could not help but notice an ad campaign by DirecTV called, The Settlers, which plays on the word, presenting a frontier-era family in a suburban neighborhood who stick to antiquated ways such as a horse-and-buggy, making their own clothes, faceless dolls, and...cable TV. Although I have no clue as to whether DirecTV is superior to cable TV, this ad campaign did cause me to wonder: In education, are we in any way “settling” for less than the absolute best? If so, in what areas? And, in which areas is it imperative that we do not settle?

In general terms, our profession’s customers--the children who attend our schools--are simply too important to allow ourselves to settle for less than the very best we can provide. Whether we are talking about facilities, finances, curriculum resources, technology, or extra curricular offerings, our children deserve the very best available. Having said that, I do reside in the real world and can accept that there are budgetary limits in all walks of life, and education is--and should be--no different. In what ways, then, is it ever acceptable to "settle" in education and where must we draw lines in the sand, insisting we hold out for nothing less absolute best? 
  • An obvious standard for never settling is for each and every one of us to commit to giving our personal best every day when we arrive to work. This is easier said than done, of course, yet it is the one area over which we likely have the most control in terms of consciously deciding to not settle.
  • Another “no-settle” zone is to always ask, “What is best for kids?” when making any decision. We should never waver from this as the gold standard for decision-making in our schools. It may well be that budget constraints limit our choices, but once we have identified the choices available within these budget constraints, the question must always be answered based on which alternative will result in better outcomes for students. 
  • Another area where we must resist “settling” is in the area of school facilities and classroom learning environments. Once again, we may not have enough money to build new state-of-the-art schools every few years or even outfit our classrooms with the most up-to-date furnishings and equipment. At the same time, we must do all in our power (and within our budget) to never settle in ensuring that our facilities and classrooms are safe, clean, welcoming, learning-focused places in which to teach, learn, and lead.


via: http://esportsentrepreneur.com/how-to-hire-the-best-staff-for-your-esports-organization/

Finally, and most importantly, at this time of year, I am reminded of another area in which we should never settle: hiring new staff. Currently, many schools around the world are in high-gear hiring mode, filling teaching positions along with a host of other educational roles and filling these just as fast as they can. Filling these positions is as important as any decisions we make for those of us involved in the process. Make the right decision and the lives of our children will be enriched, perhaps for decades to come. In addition, our own lives will improve, as we surround ourselves with new professionals who bring with them new skill sets, new perspectives, and new energy, while at the same time becoming the type of team member who fits in well with the current staff, committing to the mission, vision, and values of the team, focusing on learning, results, and collaboration with their colleagues and student-centered teaching in their classrooms. Make the wrong decision, however, and a school/district could be in for an equally-long period of time--a time marked by disappointment and frustration, as we learn the person we selected is neither a good fit, nor equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed with their students and/or their colleagues. 

Although the hiring process is arduous--particularly if a school or district is hiring large numbers of new staff--this is a primary area in which we should simply never settle. “Never” is a rather strong and absolute-sounding term, yet I think it is appropriate in this instance. That may mean that we interview a multitude of candidates, only to find that we need to keep looking and start the process anew. That sounds like a whole lot of extra work and time. Better, methinks, to spend this time and energy upfront, than settle now and spend much more time and energy later correcting this mistake.

As important as many of our programs are in schools, Todd Whitaker hits the nail on the head when he insists that it is people, not programs, that make the difference. People are always the problem and they are always the solution. Programs themselves are never the problem and never the solution. The true variable in our schools is our people. It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to never settle for a candidate who we are not 100% convinced has the skills, knowledge, character, attitude, and relational capabilities--or, at a minimum, the potential to grow enough in these areas, and quickly--to succeed with the students and parents they serve and the staff with whom they will collaborate.

I am, by nature, a practical person, comfortable living with rules, procedures, budgets, limitations, and the realization that sometimes doing the very best we can do is all we can do, even when we suspect it is not enough. However, there are some situations with which I am not comfortable. Settling for a mediocre candidate to fill any role in which the person will be working with children is one. In the ad campaign referenced at the start of this post, the father says to the son (when he asks why they cannot have the supposedly better technology), “We’re settlers, Son; that’s what we do.” Well, let’s not be settlers in our schools. As Merton suggests in the quote above, "settling" is quite a tempting proposition; however, this is a temptation we must resist. Never settling for less than the best we can do each and every day and never settling by hiring a less -than-stellar educator are more ways we Teach, Learn, and Lead with Passion!





14 comments:

  1. Dr. Zoul,

    I laughed when I started reading this post. Considering that I have the worst wifi in the world...I occasionally think of myself as a settler.

    On a better note, I agree that we cannot "settle" in our schools. Teaching is a commitment...as you said, we have to bring our best each day. I've talked with educators that have mentioned some days it is tough to give 100%...I always cringe at this. Our students deserve our best each day...no settling for so-so.

    Happy Easter, Jeff!

    -Ben

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ben, Thank you so much for reading and commenting...and quit "settling" for crummy wifi! Totally agree that we must bring our best each day; not always easy, but the work is too important not to. Best to you; thanks again, Jeff

      Delete
  2. A fantastic post, my friend. I completely agree that hiring is probably the most important responsibility that we have as leaders and we must never settle. Our students do deserve absolutely the best. Well done, my man.

    Dan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dan,

      Thank you for reading and commenting; much appreciated! I have experienced "settling" in the hiring process before and it typically turns out that in hindsight, everyone wished they would have started all over to find the right person. So important. Thanks again, friend. Best,

      Jeff

      Delete
  3. Jeff,

    Great Post. I agree with everything but really liked the part about always making decisions on what is best for students. Also, these commercials have had me cracking up all through March Madness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anthony, Thanks for reading and commenting! I actually think of Kipling School as being a model in this area. Even when teachers know a decision may make their workload more difficult or force them to change in some way, they do it if it is best for kids. Kudos to you and your staff for leading the way in this area. Thanks again, Jeff

      Delete
  4. That commercial cracks me up; such creativity behind that one. After we earned the National School of Character distinct, we couldn't help but wonder: Are we there yet? And as we challenged ourselves with that reflection, it became clearer and clearer that in the Kid Business, we must NEVER get too comfortable in thinking we've arrived. Thanks for the reminder!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great post, Jeff. I completely agree that we need to bring our very best every day for our students and each other. While some things cost money, having a positive attitude, caring for others, and building solid relationships are things that are priceless, yet cost nothing. Hiring is such an important responsibility; we must bring our A-game to that process, too. I love how you write, "Make the right decision and the lives of our children will be enriched, perhaps for decades to come." It's imperative that we hire the best!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Jennifer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jennifer!
      Thank you for reading and commenting! It's amazing, isn't it---the things that truly matter the most cost nothing at all! Thank you for bringing your A-game each day in your service to students and staff! Lead with passion,
      Jeff

      Delete
  6. Hi Barbara,
    Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I love your idea about "never arriving." We always have room to grow and get better. Thanks for not settling on behalf of kids! Best,
    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jeff, I enjoyed your post. What resonates with me the most was your comment about not settling for bringing anything but our very best to work each day. It's amazing what a difference something as simple as greeting students at the door can do to positively transform classroom culture. It's the little things - a kind word, a warm smile - that can make all the difference in someone's day. Your post made me think of Stephen Covey's mantra: "Live life in crescendo." As educators, we should consistently strive to model authentic leadership, never settling, but rather consistently seeking out ways to learn, grow and challenge ourselves in an effort to better serve our students.
    @AbbyDalen

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Abby,
    Thank you for reading and commenting! You are spot on about the extent to which the "simple things" can make a difference. Often, they are, indeed, relatively "simple" to do; I never call these the "little" things though; these "simple" things are often the "big" things. Thanks again for reading and sharing. Best,
    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jeff, you continue to provide valuable insight in leadership through your blog and podcasts; know you're making a difference! A common mantra that I've experienced throughout my path to leadership has been "When in doubt, get them out", however is this reactive to what Are We Settling? is all about. If we take the time to develop a strong hiring/screening process established through the culmination of great teams, then "getting them out" is a costly endeavor that is no longer a consideration. Thank you for sharing your insight, knowledge, and experience. Keep them coming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gabe,
      Thank you so much for reading. commenting, and the kind thoughts. You are correct; the better we can fine tune the hiring/screening process, allowing for structured protocols as well as professional judgment, the less likely we will need to expend time, money, and effort remediating or, as you say, "getting them out." Important stuff! Thank you again for taking the time to read/comment; much appreciated! Best,
      Jeff

      Delete