This weekend I was watching the PGA championship and was explaining to my daughter that each tournament is four consecutive days that consists of 72 holes.
She asked, why is it so long?
It is to reward the most consistent player I said. To acknowledge the one player who made the least errors, showed grit, and made adjustments when things went wrong.
The one who utilized their evaluative experiences to make the best decisions through the toughest times.
She said, “no dad, I was asking why is it so long to get it in the hole?”
I don’t know Devyn.
How does this correlate to school leadership you are asking? Everything!
Great school leaders know that teachers who are the most consistent, through the most challenging of times, emerge with the highest student achievement rates no matter the measure. They may not hit the ball the farthest, but they sink their putts when it matters most, with the least amount of strokes to get there.
Play along with me here. How many of your teachers can “wing it” during the first two quarters, experimenting with the curriculum and strategies and all of a sudden finish the year at the top of the student achievement scoreboard? If they are, I am sorry to be the one to tell you, you have a massive problem with the majority of your teachers. As a result, the school you lead is under performing.
I know what this looks like because I was one of those teachers.
In fact, if I wasn’t privileged enough to be a principal of a school with a clear education plan and school wide instructional practices (someone else put them in place), I too would have been the principal of an underperforming school as well. To really be honest, I did my best to keep us unfocused and “chasing the wind” at times. Luckily for me I was surrounded by an effective leadership team who understood curriculum and really talented teachers.
Still to this day I am learning that consistency is far better than having moments of greatness!
Back to the PGA Open. Let’s take a look at what it takes to be a consistent golf champion.
- Preparation: Success is when preparation meets opportunity. Effective teachers, like champion golfer practice their pedagogical and instructional practices daily, running lessons through their head during the drive home. When school is out, they are participating in book studies or attending student achievement conferences on how to best reach all students; ultimately raising student achievement.
- Fighting through the elements: Golf is an outdoor sport. At any moment the rains can come, the wind can shift or someone could yell Ba-Ba-Booey in in your backswing. As a teacher, there are many “elements” that can impact the culture of a classroom. These elements range from navigating through top down leadership initiatives to off-task behaviors and battling the germs all students bring to the classroom. Teaching is a daily grind, a challenge that needs laser like focus and a positive outlook.
- Laying up when you are in a hazard: In golf, in order to get the best score sometimes you need to lay up, play it safe, in order for you to be in a better position tomorrow. Teachers who are consistent know the value of not being too emotional when lessons go very well, and lessons that tank. Accept the penalty, learn from it, and move forward toward the goal.
- Utilize their caddy: Caddies in golf do more than carry the clubs for the golfer, they provide strategic counsel and moral support, just like teaching mentors. Great teachers are constantly seeking mentors who they can contact personally, or learn from through literature, podcasts or other technologies.
A great instructional leader at Henderson Collegiate, Eric Sanchez taught me, students are the constant, teachers are the variable. Therefore, teachers are what’s responsible for the success of the education plan you are laid out. You owe it to them to ensure they fully equipped, supported, and not distracted by every intervention and quick fix program out there. Every day they need their biggest fans to remind them how much they are valued. Also, every once in awhile they need their caddy to get them hitting the ball straight again. Don’t get stuck out of bounds looking for lost balls, just show them the to pin!