“The waste of life occasioned by trying to do too many things at one time is appalling.”
-Orison Swett Marden
Orison Swett Marden wrote a book in 1894 titled Pushing to the Front and founded Success magazine in 1897. He was the Stephen Covey/Malcom Gladwell of his day. It’s amazing that over 120 years later, we are still discussing many of the same life and leadership lessons.
Marden’s quote symbolizes the biggest hurdle school leaders face- prioritizing what is important. If everything is important, then nothing is important. School leaders have an obligation to simplify the complexities of modern teaching and learning. There are far too many hands in the pot. Too many chef’s in the kitchen. Too many jockeys, not enough horses. Too many…well , you get it. Everyone wants to give their ten cents to “fix” education.
Maybe education needs to be fixed. I am not so sure. What I am sure of is that there are too many people who are far removed from the schoolhouse, from the classroom, trying to tell teachers what and how to teach. Most, not all, are well-intentioned. They want schools to produce students who will contribute to their communities, to their country. Don’t we all want that?
School districts are being micromanaged by the federal government, state governments, and local municipalities. This gets passed on to school boards and makes its way to the schoolhouse. The autonomy of the classroom teacher has been replaced with constraints that are building a generation of self-doubting, stressed-out teachers, who are questioning their career choices.
Despite all of this, our teachers are working harder than ever. They work longer hours. They do more with less every year. They are heroes to their students. They juggle the demands of teaching with the needs of their own families. Most importantly, they never make excuses when their students struggle. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get back to doing their best for each and every student.
What can we do for them? What gift can we give them? It’s simple, we can give the gift of trust. We can remember that they are experts in their profession who know their students better than anyone else. We can support them, provide resources and training, then get out of their way and watch them work their magic. We can make sure that their time is spent on what is most important, the children. Let’s give teachers the gift of trust, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.