You’re Fired!
Week Eight: Spookular

“Spookular” was my sister’s word for synchronicity. It seemed especially appropriate as I returned home from Learning Point Associate’s Annual (LPA) Conference on “Reaching High Expectations” just in time to tune into this week’s episode of The Apprentice. We all saw in living color that “good enough” is never good enough. Winning requires setting high expectations and working toward them with passion. Net Worth did neither.

I Have Nothing to Prove

Craig and Chris were the only two team members who hadn’t led Net Worth. Neither volunteered so a name was pulled from a hat. This same lack of passion, when applied to career choices, can have devastating effects. Consider the implications of “It’s good enough for government work.” and “I guess I’ll become a teacher, at least I’ll get the summers off.”

Cathy Gunn, Executive Director of the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) shared the vision of high expectations at the LPA Conference. Quoting research on high performing / high technology schools she said that high expectations was a dominant theme from both the schools and their communities. “In particular,” Gunn said “a shared vision unites students and teachers. In these highly successful schools, when there is an achievement gap, the strategy is to raise the expectations. And it works.”

We Don’t Have the Luxury of Being Mediocre

Sandee Kastrul, President of I.C.Stars offers a fresh start for inner-city youth. When I had the opportunity to visit with her several weeks ago, I noticed Sandee’s quote on the board: “We Don’t Have the Luxury of Being Mediocre.” As the Stars shared with Champaign County’s High Tech Edge students, the importance of Sandee’s words became obvious. We heard from a young man who was supporting a family of six before he was 30. We heard from a 17 year old woman who had the ability to stand toe to toe with the number crunchers. Education is one area where we definitely can’t afford mediocrity. Congress heard the same message from Bill Gates and others when they declared that low expectations in education translates to economic problems and homeland security issues.

At the LPA Conference, I listened to ex-Governor Jim Geringer of Wyoming. Showing statistic after statistic he explained how the U.S. was behind all other industrialized countries in engineering, technology, medicine and education. Lagging behind in any of these fields puts our ability to promote democratic principles at risk. Geringer was passionate about this point and I paid attention.

What’s the Answer, John?

John was a perfect example of how not to do it. There were two behaviors in particular that we should talk about. First, John had no respect. He didn’t respect the task, the team, the purpose or the event. Second, John refused to think outside the box. He had one idea and considered nothing else. Even the rock legends tried to help. Simpler Plan asked “Is that special enough?” Gene Simmons said “Do you think that’s going to raise enough money for pediatric AIDs? Every celeb has an ego and I want mine to be bigger than theirs.”

As a society, we’ve fallen victim to both these problems. Thinking inside the box is, in a nutshell, the problem with education and therefore the problem with the United States’ ability to compete. How many times have you heard “That’s how it was when I was in school” or “It worked for me, what’s the problem?” If you were to listen to folks like John, these responses might work but things have changed. Over and over we hear from our children, “I’m bored.” This isn’t a request to make education easier, it’s a cry to make it more challenging. Remember what Gunn said “when there is an achievement gap, the strategy is to raise the expectations. And it works.” This is how we win. John didn’t understand this. “John, you’re fired.”

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