Excellence comes from…….? By David Reid Otey

The general rule of life experience for a skill to be highly advanced or mastered is ten thousand hours. This begins with the very first lesson and includes private practice time. As a teacher, who thinks way too much in and out of my class room, I pondered the phrase ” give me excellence from you”, or the many other ways of phrasing that same sentiment: ” That’s not good enough, You can do better than that, Don’t get lazy on me, Care about your work, Care about yourself, You’re smarter than that and you know it”, to name a few.

My peer teachers often talk about the difficulties they have with ”reaching” the grade school students. Reaching means motivating, convincing and persuading students to show interest and care for learning, and for committing to produce high quality work for high grades. These are good  to great teachers I am talking about. They use various techniques along with high quality curriculum–meaning really smart people put the curriculum together based on ”driven research”, ( a shameless lead to a blog I wrote about THAT topic). At any rate, the question now for me is, where does excellence come from ?

Excellence is not isolated as an attitude, really. It’s an actual ability to produce. Since mental and physical abilities are shown/revealed in tangible  products/projects people can see, this makes excellence a level of objective skill. Excellence has to be taught, trained and practiced. Excellence deals with ”focus” and ”staying with the game”. Teach a child to ”focus”  and to ”stay in the game” in performing a variety of activities; dancing, making models, playing a musical instrument, cooking, and many other choices; and you are teaching that child to know and feel confidence. Confidence that CREATES the ‘attitude’ of success, the ‘attitude’ that ” I can handle anything by focusing and staying with the steps (pieces) of  the picture I want/need to make.”  So, excellence describes the ability of the person to focus, stay with the game and to perform expertly on whatever task is given. So, who teaches the children how to be excellent ?

The parents and associated relatives. That’s who. The training to be able to do anything starts at home. Always has and always will. Economic level of the family does NOT matter. I have worked with lazy rich kids and high quality poor kids. What matters is the parents (s) and others who provide opportunities for their children to be a part of something big, to create, and to be at their side guiding, modeling, helping, boosting their spirits, helping them stand when they fall, encouraging and empowering their own and maybe even the neighbor’s kids. Now, it is true that a teacher’s job is to do those very things. BUT–you usually cannot do those with a child who is trained in an ‘entitlement mentality’, who thinks the world owes him a life and a place to live, along with other expectations for whatever reasons.

Good news though is that it is possible for some of those students to be retrained and led onto a track toward excellence. It’s been done before through a lot of  time consuming work. It’s a frame of mind, excellence is, and it’s foundation must begin at home and continued throughout life. A lean toward excellence in everything we do makes for a greater peace, greater success and wonderful opportunities.

Thank you for reading. )

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