Today’s working world has fewer jobs and more expectations for its workers. The economy is one reason employers have become selective with their limited positions, but another factor involves the speed in which technology is taking over certain jobs–all or part–to save both time and money. However, people who can bring something extra to the table, who can do something more than technology can, are still in demand. Thomas Friedman says this is why “everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.”
But, average isn’t only over in the world of work; average is over in the education as well. We need strong principals, unique teachers, and ambitious students. More than higher test scores, we need students who want to learn, teachers who want to teach, and principals who are prepared to lead. We are in a point in education where all the players need to be reinvented with the idea that average isn’t good enough.
I recently read an article by Geoffrey James who interviewed some of the most successful CEOs in the world to find out what sets them apart from the rest. He was able to breakdown their leadership styles into eight core beliefs, and under each core belief, he listed how an “extraordinary” boss carries out these core beliefs versus an “average” boss.
It got me thinking, how much different is the business culture than the education culture? This framework could also be used by principals, teachers, and students to set the achievement, interpersonal, and academic standards higher. The “average vs. extraordinary” frame of reference can help professionals and students measure their success by allowing them to look at themselves, no matter their postion, and have the self-awareness to asses where they stand in the spectrum.
Imagine the outcome if principals, teachers, and students dumped “average” from their vocabulary and replaced it with “extraordinary”. What would be possible for learning if teachers saw students as powerful co-creators in the educational process? What if teachers understood that their students, if given the opportunity, could teach and inspire them if given the chance to really assert themselves in class and out? What if the whole educational model really can be turned upside down the way Kahn has inverted the model for math learning, getting students to study at home and come to a teacher facilitated class where the students lead small groups in refining and crystallizing in a small group what the began at home?
The step between extraordinary and average doesn’t have to be a big one. An extraordinary boss or teacher sees individuals, respects their ability to get things done on their own, motivates, changes, and supports and approaches their own mission with the same aplomb. An average boss or teacher sees only the group, commands and demands, feels superior, uses fear as a motivator and stays within familiar confines. If employees and employers fear that technology will take over our jobs, they can slow down the “get things done” robotics of business or teaching by bringing the humanity back to leadership. If students, principals and teachers are willing to consider new models which will promote extraordinary outcomes, everyone will be inspired by the intrinsic motivation which keeps us all curious, contributing, interested and committed to contributing at the highest levels. And that can change the game for all players.
“Average Is Over,” by Thomas Friedman. 24 January 2012. The New York Times. Accessed on 27 April 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/25/opinion/friedman-average-is-over.html
“8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses,” by Geoffrey James. 23 April 2012. Inc. Accessed on 27 April 2012. http://www.inc.com/