Believing You Are Great Leaves Very Little Room for Improvement.

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The idea for this blog came to me after reading a comment left on an entry called “Perception”.

It got me thinking why educators and schools are sometimes the last to know they may not be as perfect as they want to believe.I Need This Poster.

I’m not judging, I’m just saying. 

This is an easy trap.

It can happen to administrators, teachers, custodians, cooks, school boards, parents, athletes, students and entire school districts (is there anyone I didn’t insult???).

Most of us like to believe we are self-motivated (if this was true, I wouldn’t need an alarm clock… or a scale).

And most of us are motivated.

Up to a point.

Then not so much.

The point our self-motivation fails us is when things get really hard.

It’s difficult to do things that are uncomfortable (or new).

I think this is one of the reasons it’s taken so long for technology to be taught by classroom teachers.

It can be hard (ie: new).  And confusing.  Even worse, it opens up the possibility the teacher may not be the smartest person in the classroom.

Many of us also believe the organization in which we are members is far greater than it actually is.

If you are involved with a group of people who are consistently telling each other they are great, you start to believe it.

None of us want to think we need to continually improve, but we do.

We all need help to accomplish great things.  To do our best.  To do things we could have never imagined.

It’s impossible to push ourselves to our limits (if that was the case the Marines wouldn’t need Sergeants).

Most of us think we are working as hard as possible.

We believe we are improving on a daily basis and giving at least a 110% effort (except on Fridays and days before holidays… those don’t count).

The truth is we probably aren’t.

That’s where we need help.

Other people (or outsiders) can recognize areas in which we need to improve.

That’s why we need coaches, bosses, mentors, and professional development.

We may not want people telling us we aren’t as great as we think we are, but it’s definitely what we need.

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14 Responses to “Believing You Are Great Leaves Very Little Room for Improvement.”

  1. Alison
    on Apr 18th, 2010
    @ 7:19 am

    Well said.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Alison, Thanks for the comment… I was about to give up on getting any on this blog.

  2. Jan Seiter
    on Apr 18th, 2010
    @ 9:19 am

    This week I had the opportunity to visit and observe the Manor HS new Technological Academy. The academy is a math/science focused school that has strictly a PBL (problem or project based learning) curriculum.

    I was NOT impressed at all with this new school nor do I believe the claims they make. Further, I believe that ANY school, in any district in Texas today, can do the exact same things they have done and claim the exact same results. This is due to how they select their students, how they have structured their curriculum and how they are actually practicing their model.

    The Manor ISD is a struggling district with high transient populations and low HST scores. I always believe leadership is rare…it keeps us from falling for the charlatans.
    I posted a longer critique at

  3. Pam Franklin
    on Apr 18th, 2010
    @ 9:43 am

    This is why I have stopped reading a lot of other teaching type people’s blogs. They seem to go on and on about how great they are and how motivated all their students are…and I just don’t buy it. I try very hard to be a good teacher, and I miss the mark quite a few days. I have to believe that they do, too – or else I would begin feeling terribly inadequate.

    There’s a fine line between self-confidence and delusion!

  4. Olwyn Hughes
    on Apr 18th, 2010
    @ 11:41 am

    This is one of the reasons I am so excited to be moving towards a learning community model where we collaborate with other teachers and no longer have our “own” class of students. Rather than a 1:25 ratio, it is now a 4:100 where all 4 teachers are responsible for all the students and team together to find the best ways to teach them.

    It will allow me to learn from the other teachers who are better at teaching certain areas and improve my teaching practice. I think that understanding and accepting my strengths and weaknesses is one of the most important things I can do for myself as a person and a teacher. Understanding and acceptance come first. Doing something about it comes second.

  5. Christy
    on Apr 18th, 2010
    @ 2:08 pm

    I do agree with this…but I have a qualifying statement. I believe that recently in the US, the outside observers have been people who have little to no knowledge about the educational system, or more specifically, the social problems present in and behind the educational system. I think some of the recent attacks on education in general, and teachers in particular, have been made by businessmen and politicians who first of all remember their own school experiences through rose-colored glasses (“these kids today are so _____”) and secondly look at education as a business proposition – which it can never be, due to the whole principle of free, mandatory public education.

    I would like nothing more than constructive feedback on what happens in my classroom. I have been trying for three years to meet with other world history teachers from the other schools in my district but it hasn’t happened yet. Our administrators, while pretty good, are overworked and simply do not have the time to do very many observations. I don’t really have a solution for this, but I did want to put it out there.

  6. Allen Poynter
    on Apr 18th, 2010
    @ 8:54 pm

    As a second year principal, one problem I see with folks is not so much that they see themselves as great. Some will even admit that they are not the “best” teacher out there. But the big problem is that they have become complacent and OK with just being mediocre–not willing to try something new and out of the box. To me, these are the frustrating ones.

  7. Krista
    on Apr 19th, 2010
    @ 7:53 am

    I once took the Insight teacher test and was amazed at the focus on “teachers as the most important profession”. Not kidding, that was the question–and several times…..the sad thing is—as a professional teacher, you hear it a lot–”if it weren’t for teachers, there would be no….” As if the profession itself is completely independent of all others. Too bad those folks are missing the bigger picture. Education is completely interdependent of all professions. Yet we continue to do things in the way that we “have always done them”, and not evolve. We don’t run schools like a business–hiring the best, looking at the bottom line–results. We continue to fight mandates (as if it will change the fact), complain in the halls outside classrooms (because that is where we can), and go back in and teach the unit the same we did it 4, 5, 10 years ago–because that’s how we do it…..we do what is comfortable–and differentiating and adjusting to reach students isn’t what is comfortable–its hard.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Krista, Running schools as a business… interesting….

  8. Alicia Kessler
    on Apr 20th, 2010
    @ 8:02 am

    So many thoughts about this post…….I want professional development that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out…..I want committee meetings that are actually well attended and the attendees are prepared……I want board members without an athletic agenda……I want teachers to dress like professionals………I want feed back when I ask for it (and even when I don’t).

    I want (so very much want) the colleges of education to become more tough and far more stringent. We constantly fault school districts for hiring poor teachers and for keeping them. I ask you, who is bestowing the degree on these people?? I don’t mean to pass the buck – schools shouldn’t hire poor candidates or keep them. However, Universities shouldn’t be churning out failures either.

    I don’t see so much problem with tenure as I do with administrators who know in the first year a teacher isn’t doing the job justice, but keeps them on to…. grow into the job. I could be wrong (don’t tell my kid) , but I’m thinking that doesn’t happen in business……if we want to go with the business model – not saying I’m a fan of it……I’m just sayin’

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Alicia Kessler, You should take this comment… give it a title… and make it a blog.

  9. Katiemc827
    on Apr 21st, 2010
    @ 5:53 am

    I have enjoyed reading your recent posts. Actually I always enjoy them, I just never comment. This one finally pushed me to respond. First, thanks. Thank you for blogging or posting things that validate what I often think of or encounter. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Second, thank you for creating a web page and blog that I send any administrator, old and new to the position, to when I do professional development for leadership in districts. It has become a great resource as well as a source of comic relief (I’m hoping that too is one of your unintended or intended outcomes :) .) I believe in Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships, but I always add Fun. Yes, I believe you can have all 3 and still have fun. Your blog and posts provide me with the ammunition for that. Thanks and keep posting!

  10. Warren Purdy
    on Apr 24th, 2010
    @ 1:17 am

    Bizarre moment recently that is sorta relevant to this POST (THEY’RE CALLED POSTS!!!!!!!!!), Ahem – I had to do some presenting recently on the topic ‘motivation’ to 90 Qatari leaders (the word ‘bizarre’ has zero zip nada currency here). This is a group of conservative men ( dressed in thobes) and conservative women (dressed in abayas and hijabs). I stood up (I’m in a suit wearing a Madonna style headpiece microphone jobby) and I start singing Maybelline – Ás I was a motivatin over the hill – saw Maybelline in a coup de ville’. I got a few looks let me tell you (no record contract yet thru as I type),

    Thought you might like to know that Michael!

  11. Dianne Habluetzel
    on Aug 26th, 2011
    @ 12:28 pm

    “Good is the Enemy of Great” is the theme of a popular Jim Collins text about the need to be vigilant about constantly improving….learning from our mistakes….be willing to make more mistakes….and appreciating the folks who work with us who understand the relationship between making mistakes and making improvements. I’ve been in education for 20 years, and so much of you post resonates with my own perspectives, personally and professionally. I really haven’t developed an appreciation for making mistakes…after all this time…it still bugs me! If I could practice what I preach to students and colleagues….mistakes are just a step in the natural learning curve….I’d not be as threatened to admit that I need improvement….so, I’m going to make a determined effort to celebrate the little (and sometimes large) moments in life when I’ve learned to improve…….from a mistake I made…..or a lesson learned from someone else’s mistake! Thanks for reminding me that we are all human!

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