6 choices that can have a profound effect on the school community


When people make a fundamental choice to be true to what is highest in them, or when they make a choice to fulfill a purpose in their life, they can easily accomplish many changes that seem impossible work improbable in the past. – Robert Fritz

Educators can make hundreds of decisions a day, some of them about incredibly important things.

Fortunately, making a few fundamental choices in critical areas can simplify and ease the process of making those decisions.

Here are a few examples:

Choose integrity over expediency: Integrity requires that we speak our truth (with a lower-case “t”) and keep our promises when it might be easier not to do so. Expediency only requires that we do what is easiest at the moment.

Choose healthy skepticism over cynicism: Healthy skepticism requires that educators bring a finely-honed critical intellect to their study of professional literature and to problem-solving and decision-making within the school community. Cynicism only requires that we reflexively dismiss new ideas and the views of others.

Choose hopefulness over resignation: Hopefulness requires that we seek possibility where others see only constraints. Resignation only requires that we surrender to the inevitable challenges faced when we do important work.

Choose considered judgment over raw opinion: Considered judgment requires that we carefully consider the complexity of the problems we face and weigh the possible intended and unintended consequences of alternative solutions.  Raw opinion only requires that we respond with the first thought that comes to our minds and defend it with strong emotion.

Choose stretch goals over modest, but achievable targets: Stretch goals require that we commit ourselves to outcomes we do not know how to achieve with the understanding that their attainment are likely to require deep changes and continuous improvement in ourselves and the school community. Modest, but achievable targets only require that we work within the safety and comfort of our current beliefs, understandings, and practices.

Choose continuous improvement over “good enough”: Continuous improvement requires that we unceasingly seek more effective and efficient ways to achieve important goals. “Good enough” only requires that that we unquestioningly accept the limitations of our current beliefs, understandings, and practices.

I will explore these fundamental choices in greater depth in upcoming posts.

Can you think of other fundamental choices of equal weight that I have missed?

8 Responses to “6 choices that can have a profound effect on the school community”

  1. 1 barbarawmadden March 22, 2013 at 7:02 am

    I first learned of stretch goals from Dr. Laverne Scott, who also said “Getting better is forever.” Thank you for sharing. I love starting my day with “sparks” of wisdom!! 😊

  2. 3 Bill Hughes March 22, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Great article Dennis. Will be posting in Leading to Reform Weekly Newsletter.

  3. 5 principalsintraining March 23, 2013 at 12:05 am

    The idea of stretch goals seems very apropos to the need for effective integration of technology into the curriculum – not lots of experience out there (tech grows fast, schools move slow!), so schools/districts have to shed fear and tradition and gain expertise together with students on how to do it. “Change” we often see might be moving around the bell schedule or incorporating some out-of-class intervention – not unimportant per se, but ultimately superficial if disengaging classroom practices persist. This runs parallel to the mindset of ongoing improvement. All organizations come into homeostasis – if the role of school leadership is anything, it is keeping the water flowing and not letting the stagnation of “past practice” dictate what is best for students now.

    And the odd thing? Once the fear is shed you see real excitement in the eyes of the adults who magically are learning something new – one of the greatest experiences there is!

    • 6 Dennis Sparks March 23, 2013 at 11:25 am

      A great reminder about the power of fear! It is often a significant and sometimes invisible barrier to achieving worthy individual and collective goals.

  4. 7 Cathy Gassenheimer March 23, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Dennis, you might consider one more choice for building community:
    Choose the stance of partner rather than expert: No one likes to be “fixed.” Build trust and capacity by truly listening to your colleagues, engaging in dialogue, and asking key and deep questions to help both of you move forward. Celebrate success and create an environment where making mistakes is not only acceptable, but a learning opportunity for all.

  5. 8 Dennis Sparks March 23, 2013 at 11:28 am

    A much appreciated addition, Cathy! “Choose partnership over ‘expertise.'”

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