Good Enough Consistently

As I left school the other day, I noticed that one of the custodians was cleaning the windows on the doors. They looked really nice, and I told her so. I also got to thinking that our windows always look really nice which is so small task given all of the foot traffic in a such large high school. Our windows look nice because someone has made the commitment to care for our windows every week.

This made me wonder what other small, good moves are made in our school. For example, when we attend meetings, great facilitators put a lot of care into building a sense of belonging and connection in the group. No details are left to chance. When a room is rearranged in circles, it’s a small move to build a sense that everyone matters. When music is playing and snacks are served, there are efforts to make people feel cared for and like someone took special care to plan for their experience.

When we go into classrooms where students use each other’s names and seamlessly transition into good turn and talks, we aren’t seeing all the moments previous to that when the teacher had students practice names and taught students how to engage in caring and meaningful ways. Behavior is sometimes caught but often taught.

When things go right, they go right for a reason. Not just because of everything that went right in that moment but all of the moments proceeding.

I love following Brad Stulberg on Instagram and Twitter. He posted this today:

Consistency is not glamorous, but it is key. Schools do not look beautiful every day consistently on their own. Classrooms are not productively interactive on a whim. Meetings are not inevitably comfortable for hard, honest conversations. All of this occurs because someone took the time to be consistent with a few basic things that felt important.

That last part about it being important is critical. In the absence of motivation, we must learn to be disciplined about what matters. We make space for that which is worthy of our small, consistent efforts by quieting the other noise. Whether it’s flavor of the month instructional initiatives or fun distractions, being consistent is how greatness is built. Brick-by-brick. Day-after-day until we look back weeks, months, or years later and can see that we’ve climbed what once felt like a mountain.

This is my second year as a Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning in my school district. I work in a very large middle and a very large high school. I can’t say with certainty that I know everyone’s name, but I know most people’s names. That wasn’t true at this time last winter. But every day, I walk the halls. I talk to people, and I learn more and more names. So, generally, when I walk into the schools now, I see someone I know and I say hello and use their name. Greetings and names are important, so this has been a worthy endeavor. I show up, I see and I’m seen. Over and over and over again, I engage. It’s small. It’s not the greatest thing you will ever read about on a blog. And yet, it’s good enough. Because now, if I have a question or someone has a question for me, we feel like we already know each other. We all know the work feels easier and better when that is true. Names and personalized greetings are small moves for belonging. By knowing names, I help build belonging. By hearing my name, I too feel as though I belong.

I’ve been faithfully writing on this blog every week for over two years. Has every blog post been great? Certainly not. This one might not be, haha. But you know what? I know more about what I think and believe about leadership in schools because I’ve stayed consistent. In fact, I’ve spent so much time, little-by-little, thinking and writing, that I’ve now written a book that is set for publication this spring. A book that I hope will inspire others to believe that their small moves, executed with care and consistency, will make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Too many great things don’t happen because we don’t believe that our small moves are good enough. My challenge for each of us is to decide what matters so much that it’s worthy of our consistent good enough. Good enough consistently can help us achieve greatness.

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