Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Antecedents of Excellence


In Doug Reeves' excellent book The Daily Disciplines of Leadership, he explains that schools that regularly perform at the highest levels are attuned to the antecedents of excellence - those habits and practices that are the foundation that allows students and adults to learn and thrive. The task of school teams is to determine what the antecedents of excellence are and measure their progress in implementing those factors into every day life. Here's my stab at some elements of school life that I believe support learning for everyone.

  1. Literacy is valued by every member of the school community.
  2. Growth and progress are celebrated frequently.
  3. Hard work is valued over intelligence.
  4. Assessment of student progress and subsequent feedback is constant, integrated into instruction, and contributes to increased motivation to learn for students.
  5. Reasoning and analysis are evident from school staff, students, and parents
  6. Content is integrated across disciplines.
  7. Technology is used to allow students to create content and interact with the world outside the school walls.
  8. Character is valued equally with academic achievement.
  9. Clear expectations for behavior are articulated and reinforced.
  10. Exceptional character is celebrated and honored.
  11. Disciplinary problems are handled fairly and firmly. These incidents are used as teaching opportunities.
  12. Failure is considered a necessary prerequisite of learning.
  13. Grace and Gentleness are evident in all relationships.
  14. Teachers and administrators share an equal role in leading instructional and school improvement.
  15. Parents are partners in their children's learning through two way communication and mutual respect.
  16. Structured social interactions enhance all learning objectives.
  17. Physical education and the Arts demand the same preparation and rigor as Language Arts and Math.
  18. Students should be spending the majority of the school day reading and writing authentic texts.
  19. Non-fiction should be included in 50% of the school day.

All of these antecedents and any that you can come up with should be submitted to the Reeves test of discovery:

It is the hard work of discovery, precisely the same work we expect of our students as they learn to read, explain a proof, or balance a chemical equation... The effective leader recreates those moments regularly, not through instant wisdom and profound judgment but through questions, errors, admission of ignorance, persistent investigation, and eventual discovery.

So, what do you think? What do you believe are some important antecedents of excellence for schools?

2 comments:

sylvia said...

As I think of the antecedents of excellence, I am reminded of a quote that says, "To love what you do and feel that it maters-how could anything be more fun?" I consider myself one of the fortunate people that loves her job. I wake up every day with a strong belief that my work matters and that somehow I am contributing to make the world a better place. In education we face many challenges that are generally beyond our control such as budget, parent support, etc. However, the one thing that we do have control of is our attitude toward what we do. I believe that one of the key antecedents of excellence is precisely our attitude. Parents, teachers and students need to have a "Yes, I can" attitude. Problems should only be viewed as solution waiting to be discovered and challenges should be embraced wholeheartedly, always trusting that together we can overcome anything. As educators, we are given the awesome responsibility to shape future generations. It is up to us to model and instill an attitude of "Yes, I can" so that our world will be filled with people who are willing to stretch beyond their comfort to reach beyond their dreams. A school that says "Yes, we can" is a school that has one key antecedent to reaching the pinnacles of excellence.

danw said...

Sylvia,

First of all, you model that behavior as well as anyone I know.

This idea is reinforced in Tom Harvey's and Bonnie Drolet's book Building Teams, Building People, where they discuss the need for teams to have a sense of potency. Harvey quotes himself with the following gem:

If you say you can, or you say you cannot, you are right.