The most essential factor is persistence – the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come. ~ James Whitcomb Riley
Results. Terms like academic rigor, data driven, common core, and standardized assessment dominate current educational vocabulary — all intended to drive and measure results. I am not suggesting that all of these are inherently bad, but providing our students with a quality education goes well beyond what can be easily measured. In fact, the true effects (good or bad) of an educator’s efforts may not be evident for years.
At last spring’s ASCD conference, I had the privilege of hearing Peter Reynolds — the founder of Fable Vision Studios — speak about fostering creative learning environments. During his keynote address, he discussed what he described as “The North Star Effect.” As Reynolds explained, historically, navigation by the north star was common practice. If a travelers bearings were off by just a few degrees it may have had minimal impact over a short distance, but over a significant period of time, a difference of a few degrees could lead one to an entirely different place.
Every day, we make decisions, and take actions, that impact our families, friends, students, colleagues and organizations. When our intent is to make a positive impact, a difference in the lives of others, we want to see results–know that we are making progress. As educators, we have to accept that we may not see the immediate, or tangible results of our work, but that doesn’t mean we are not effective. We should adopt the philosophy of The North Star Effect. Improve a given situation, even if only by a few degrees, and we may see substantial gains in the long run. We can do this by being mindful of our daily actions, interactions with others, and attitude.
Don’t underestimate your ability to make a difference, or be discouraged by what appears to be a lack of progress. More often than not, positive change and improvement is a matter of degrees, not leaps and bounds. Stay the course.