Previously, I wrote about my initial reactions to reading Brian Grazer’s book A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. Beyond just the role curiosity played in Brian’s life and work he struck another chord with me when we discussed the phrase “good enough”. This if often a phrase we hear in our line of work as educators, as is likely the case in any occupation. However, Grazer’s approach to that phrase resonated with me:
“When someone says to me, ‘That’s good enough,’ it never is. It means exactly the opposite. It means the person, or the script, isn’t good enough…
It’s such an odd expression, that means exactly the opposite of what the words themselves mean. It’s a way of saying, We’re going to settle here. Mediocrity will do just fine” (Grazer, 2015).
He goes on to explain through his curiosity conversations with world leaders, business moguls and other incredibly successful people, many of them have a deep dissatisfaction with “good enough”. If you are going to be successful, being good enough cannot enter your mind or be in your vocabulary.
How does this relate to the work we do as teachers? Sadly, I fear good enough permeates into the world of education far too much. Standards are good enough for now. These textbooks are good enough based on the choices we have. That lesson was good enough to get the content across for this year.
Beyond just the teachers and administrators, we see this with students and parents. Students do the bare minimum or what is simply good enough to get a passing grade. In addition, they settle for good enough in their own education and are content with what the school system has provided for them. Parents, too, are guilty of this. Far too few parents push back on schools doing just good enough for their kids. Instead they should be investigating and advocating for the best possible education for their kids. We can all do better.
I have written before about my fear of mediocrity becoming the norm in our schools and I still see traces of it for sure. There has to be a way we see past good enough and push to be better than that. Being content and settling are partners in crime to good enough and in turn mediocrity.
Teachers need to push back on being good enough and always look for better, different and more effective ways to do their work. We need to use our curiosity to question and wonder what else can be done and how we can look differently at our work. As teachers we also need to create learning opportunities that take away the option for students to turn in “good enough” level work. Students who are engaged in high interest and high value work rarely settle for mediocrity. As parents we need to be involved and aware of what is going on in our children’s schools and never be afraid to access our curiosity and ask questions. Questions lead to conversations and conversations are the path to learning.
What are you going to do this year to get past good enough in your school?