Teach & Serve IV, No. 38 | We Are Not as Special as We Think We Are

Teach & Serve IV, No. 38

We Are Not as Special as We Think We Are

April 24, 2019

Sometimes, in our recognition of our differences and in our celebration of what makes us special, we forget two important truths: there are thousands of schools doing very much the same work we are and we can learn an awful lot from those schools.

Society values things that are unique. We place great price on “one-of-a-kind” items. We pay more for signed memorabilia. We often seek out the “variant edition,” something simply different from the norm and, therefore, somehow more coveted.

Society values things that are unique.

Is it any surprise, then, that many educational leaders and teachers and students believe their school is better when it is different from most if not all others? Is it any surprise that many strive to make their schools different?

We want our schools to be unique places, with cultures endemic to who we are and who we want to be. We want our schools to be special, to have feel and a flavor, to stand out. We want our schools to be different.

There is much to praise about this desire, and much to value.

However, we ought to be careful to avoid a significant pitfall here.

Sometimes, in our recognition of our differences and in our celebration of what makes us special, we forget two important truths: there are thousands of schools doing very much the same work we are and we can learn an awful lot from those schools.

When we tell ourselves how different we are, we can forget that there are others ministering to students, in most cases, literally just around the corner. When we rely on how special we are, we can forget that we have so much to learn from others walking the same paths we walk.

We know that teaching our students collaboration is critical to their success. How can we collaborate with others if we believe we are so unlike them (and, often we believe we are so superior to them) that they have nothing to teach us and that we are speaking an entirely different language than they? How can we learn if we decide we have no one from whom we can learn?

Innovation, yes. Isolation, no.

We are engaged in the work of education and we look to make ourselves better at every turn, we strive for continuous improvement and a growth mindset, but, let us be honest, we are not as special as we think we are and we would be well served to seek out those doing the same work we are both to learn from them and to share what we know.

In that manner, we improve and so do they.