Do Better, Not Different


Well, that was intense.

I can say that I was not expecting to be challenged by yesterdays event as much as I was. Honestly, I was not sure what I was expecting other than to hopefully develop a better understanding of the NPDL project and to hear Simon discuss how he drives and activates change.

Let’s just say expectations were met, massively exceeded, and then some.

Simon Breakspear led what was a thought provoking and challenging day in how we as leaders within our schools can not only drive and steer the new pedagogies for deep learning project, but also drive, lead and promote change in our educational settings. So really, as mentioned already I got out of the day exactly what I was after.

Now I could, as I have done in the past, recount the day minute by minute and write a long-winded recount. I won’t. In the words from Simon himself: “Focus on less, but better”. So. I’ll pull out several key points from the day that really resonated quite strongly with me and what I do, and how my thinking has been shaped around these thoughts and ideas.

Here we go.

1. “The Best Always Look To Get Better.”


Yes they do. That’s what makes them the best. That willingness to constantly improve and want to be the best, or do the best, or lead the best, and so on… However, education is not a competition. Schools should never be ‘competing’ against one another (Did someone say ‘My School’ website…). They should be working with one another to improve practice and I was pretty happy with the conversations that I had had with other educators at various settings to hear about how they are ‘being the best’ they can be. Effectively, this is, that is, what it is all about. It is about teachers and schools being the best that they can be for the students in their setting. It is about preparing and educating the young minds that walk in to our setting each and everyday with the skills that will hold them in great stead to be successful in their chosen career paths, what ever that may be. It is about improving pedagogy, improving practice, improving learning. Seriously, why would you NOT want to be better. If there is no desire for improved pedagogy and whole school betterment, why…? The question for me is “what can I do at my setting to get better, as an individual in my role but much more importantly, what can my college do to be the best it can?”

2. “The ‘new’ way needs to become easy so that it becomes ‘the’ way”

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 8.26.28 am

How often do we hear it. “Oh no, not something thing else I have to do.”. Or. “Not another add on”. Or. “I don’t have time for this”. Are we too good improve? (I love the image above as it can occasionally be like that). Everything new is difficult, different, worrying, and so on. If it was simply ‘easy’ why would we be bother to begin with? Things only become easy, like changing pedagogy, like implementing new initiatives, like introducing new learning and learning strategies after the hard yards have been done. Only then will things become easier and only then, as Simon mentioned, it will become ‘the’ way. I cannot say that coordinating and implementing a 1:1 program at my previous school for 2000 students was easy. Nor did it happen overnight. It took the best part of a small army spanning the better part of 5 good years. But now, it is the way. It is easy. The hard yards had been done. Change, in any format for any initiative can be challenging. We need to push through the difficulty, testing and trying parts before we see the light.

Yesterday I also came across this blog post by George Couros titled “Why are you doing that again?“. One great point that George makes which goes hand in hand with another quite from Simon, shown below, is that “The biggest barrier to change is often our own thinking. As individuals, we need to change that.” Relates very strongly to new ways becoming the way.


3. “We need to do better, not different.”

This relates to the first point however I think that when you actually think about it, as I did for an hour on a train home, there is a lot to take away from this statement. Why do we do different and does doing different mean better? Is it perhaps implied that because we are making a change or beginning to do things differently that we automatically think this means better? Are paradigms being shifted? This statement I think will remain with me forever in the back of my mind as for me it promotes the further thinking of “why”. If I, or my college are initiating change, why? Will it improve student learning, or are we simply doing it because it is new and ‘different’. A great book that I have recently started reading, on top of two others (which I have never done, that is, read multiple books at once), which I feel relates to this perfectly is titled “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. A book already challenging me to think deeply about my own practice. And I am only a handful of pages into it! If the why does not lead to better, but only different, is it really worth the time, resources, manpower, costs, and headaches?


4. You cannot lead people into a future you cannot see.”


A fair point. Although I think that this did not bother Captain Kirk and the USS Enterprise. If you yourself cannot see what lies ahead how do you expect others to follow you? Leaders and those driving change need to firmly understand the path that they are taking and most importantly why. See above points 1 and 2. And 3. And 4. Why are we doing this? Will it make a difference, or, more importantly, will it makes us better?? Will those driving this change be able to pull others into getting on board though inspiring them to do so? The purpose needs to be there as does the the ability to be able to discuss, converse and debate why perhaps a change is needed. Ensuring that others can see this, the why, then leading people into the future will be much more successful and worthwhile and perhaps the amount of Klingons that are encountered are dramatically reduced.


5. “Learn to fail well.”

I hate failing. Just like losing. Hate it. The competitiveness in me just does not like it. Everything from engaging in the odd playstation game, to years of playing football, to being involved in a trivia nights, losing or failing just does not agree with me. I do not think that this is solely a bad thing. It drives me to do better and be better. Not in a manic, screaming, overly intense way either! Personally learning to fail well is something that I need to be able to do better. I think that now I ‘fail OK’, but I perhaps could sit back and reflect for longer as to why I have failed rather than think briefly about it, and try again immediately. The hustle and bustle and need to constantly complete set tasks to a standard that I am happy with perhaps could be cause of the odd failure here and there. Again, not a bad thing I feel. As yes, slow and steady wins the race but we always cannot afford to be slow. The teaching/education game does not always allow it. I feel that also failing well is a skill and a particularly great thing to be able to model to students. It shows them first hand what it means to be resilient in the face of adversity. That getting in a ‘huff and a puff’ solves nothing. Learn to fail well. Learn from failure. “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new” – Albert Einstein.


So they’re my 5 takeaways. The 5 items on my agenda to focus upon. I must thank Simon for such a great day again and for again challenging me and most likely the other 100+ people in that shared space. We’ll all be much better off for it!

And so much for a short blog post. I knew this would happen! 🙂 I’ll learn from this failure! Maybe. 😉

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