Just “good enough” is not good enough in education.




I was recently talking to a primary school teacher who prides herself on being innovative and striving to engage her students in transdisciplinary inquiry on a regular basis.  She no longer uses textbooks as a main basis for instruction, but opts instead to engage students with more primary sources and to learn skills more in the context of doing inquiry.   Her supervisor approached her recently and asked her to stop “over working,” to lighten up a bit and maybe take up textbooks again.  The argument given to her was that if they ever had to replace her they would not be able to make the new person work as hard.  It was all too much effort, she was told,  no need to try so hard to get it right.

Her story reminded me of a personal experience years ago when I started a new University teaching job.  I was called in one day by a supervisor and told that some students were complaining that my course was too challenging and I was expecting too much from them in some of the assignments.  Without hesitating, I said, “So what I hear you saying is that you would like me to give the students a mediocre course experience.”  My supervisor immediately protested, “No no, of course I am not asking you to do that!”  I never heard about that complaint again.

The forces of conformity and mediocrity are strong indeed–in his wonderful blog, marketing guru Seth Godin referred to them as The Merchants of Average–but the funny thing is no one really wants to BE thought of as mediocre, right?   Does anyone really believe that mediocre learning environments are better?

My feeling is that when it comes to educating children we cannot afford “just good enough” anymore.  The great Italian Educator, Loris Malaguzzi once remarked that children are miracles and that we educators have to make learning environments worthy of miracles.  There is no place for mediocrity in the pursuit of building excellent learning environments.

The idea of getting away with “just good enough” may be a seductive one, but it is simply NEVER good enough when it comes to education.  I want to salute all those educators I know, both young and old, who realize this fact and who consistently see obstacles as opportunities to do more, not less.


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