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Administration, Education, Leadership, Teaching

Obstacles, Excuses or Opportunities

Long road
Tomorrow, an epic journey begins. My family will be leaving
Arizona on a thousand mile trek to central Kansas for the holidays.
While anxiously anticipating the outcome, our trip is accompanied
by a certain degree of trepidation–for good reason. We will
begin with the vehicle loaded beyond capacity. Luggage.
Gifts. One seven year-old kid. One cat. One
Beagle. One hyperactive West Highland Terrier. It is a
recipe for a grand adventure, or it is an impending disaster.
Tonight, as I was loading the car, I could feel my anxiety
level rise and my attitude shift from hopeful to hopeless. When we
are faced with challenges en route to a desired outcome, how often
do we (or those we work with) go down this proverbial road with a
defeatist attitude? This can be difficult to avoid when
there seem to be more roadblocks than avenues to success.
In the world of education, there are
a plethora of obstacles to prevent pessimists from being
successful, or even making an adequate
A few of the excuses you are
likely to hear:

  • Why don’t the parents do more
    to help?
  • These kids are lazy.
  • They should have learned this in (fill-in-the-blank)
  • There isn’t enough time.
  • If they would only do their homework.
  • I don’t think the kids care about their own
  • When a students home life is so
    bad, how are we supposed to help them at school?
  • This is just the latest educational fad.
  • Standardized testing limits my ability to provide
    engaging/meaningful lessons.

Don’t get me
wrong, several of these are legitimate obstacles to our success as
educators (much like a West Highland Terrier on a trip to Kansas).
However, obstacles can be overcome,
while excuses represent permission to do
A few days ago, Tom Altepeter
(@tomaltepeter) shared a quote on Twitter that struck a chord with

To worry about something you
can’t change is useless; to worry about something you can change is
stupid. ~ @dchrzan

There is so much truth to this statement.
We can worry (or make excuses) about
all of the perceived obstacles and roadblocks that prevent us from
doing our job, or we can utilize the opportunities presented by challenges as impetus for positive change.
After all, isn’t that what we ask our
students to do?

So…in spite of
the obstacles that stand between me and a relaxing trip to Kansas,
I am going to try to turn adversity into opportunity for an
adventure. Wish us well. Happy Holidays to

About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


2 thoughts on “Obstacles, Excuses or Opportunities

  1. Jeff,

    So true! We have to quit identifying those variables which we have no control over. The energy saved could be applied to those factors we do control in education:
    1. Our effort to learn
    2. Our effort to engage students
    3. Our effort to engage parents
    4. Our capacity to care

    I want to look in the mirror before I go to bed at night and know that I did everything I could to make our students’ experience at school a better one today. I can’t do that if I am busy worrying about what I cannot control!

    Thanks for the post and making me think!
    (have a great trip…with a cat in the car? What are you thinking?)
    Happy Holidays!

    Posted by Dave Meister | December 21, 2010, 4:16 pm
  2. Great post. I like telling my students what Ben Franklin said about making excuses: A person who is good at making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
    I’ve added a link to your post on my site.
    Thank you again,

    Posted by Sam Rangel | December 21, 2010, 8:31 pm

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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