Saturday, March 7, 2015

What Excellence Looks Like

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to travel to San Francisco to visit my sister. The best part was that I was going alone. No kids. If you have ever traveled with kids before, you will understand my excitement.

I was going to fly on Virgin. I had never flown Virgin before, but they were the cheapest option, so there I was.

Right away I could tell that this airline was different. Music was blasting from their terminal. There were flowers on the desk (fake, but still beautiful). It looked like a party - which was a little weird at six in the morning. Plus, and this was the best part, everyone who worked there looked like they were enjoying their jobs. They were happy to help, and went the extra mile to make their customers feel important.

Now, contrast this to the gigantic line of already exhausted travelers waiting to check in with Delta.

But the check-in process wasn't actually what spurred me to write this post. What I want to share actually happened a little later.

I was sitting in my seat in the back of the plane when the announcement that it was time for the safety talk came over the intercom. Instead of having the flight attendants do it, there would be a short video. I remember thinking, "Yeah, right, I am not watching that."

I was picturing bad industrial videos.

Then the music started. The video was like nothing I could have ever imagined. It was clever, fun, and entertaining. It also covered all of the information the boring usual presentations cover.

In case you haven't seen it, here is the video.


The first thing I thought of while watching the video was all of the lucky people who got to work on it. As a teacher, I am always thinking about what jobs my students will someday have. I hope that many of my students get to have creative jobs that allow them to create amazing things. The people who were a part of this video got to do just that from the actors to the choreographers to the director.

The second thing I thought was - anything can be made entertaining and interesting. How many times has a teacher said, "I can't jazz this up - it is just too boring." Well, what could be more boring that explaining to someone how to use a seat belt?!

I have actually been thinking about this video and this blog post for a long time. I wanted to write about something that it very important to me, but something that is hard to articulate. 

One way to say it would be my obsession with excellence. I love it - I think more than most people - and it doesn't even matter what category the excellence comes in.

Let me try to explain.

When I met my husband he was the star of our community college basketball team. He was amazing. He could dunk, rebound, bring the ball down the court, etc... Now, I realize this was just community college, but it was still the star. 

I found this very attractive. He was the best.

Years later, after he had played basketball at a four year college, and again been the star, he was playing chess with his dad. He was kicking his dad's butt, and they were both very good chess players. I got that same rush I had so many years ago watching him excel at basketball. 

I realized that it didn't really matter what he was good at - I just appreciated his excellence at a skill. I don't know if other people feel this way, but I am guessing that most people are attracted to excellence. I don't just mean romantically attracted, but that people just want to be near excellence.

One reason I believe this is that Disneyland is one of the most popular places in the world. And Disney knows excellence. Everything they do is about being the best. Their attention to detail is insane! In their space, Disney is excellence.

I believe that we all have the capacity to be excellent at something, but we don't all reach that potential because we are too scared, too lazy, or don't understand how to make it happen. Unfortunately schools do not teach kids how to recognize their own excellence.

The closest I have come to excellence is teaching. I do not think I am the perfect teacher - yet. I do believe I have the opportunity to become one of the best teachers in the world. When I am working in education I often feel that elusive feeling of flow.

That isn't to say that I don't fall on my face quite often.

But I love it, and working is fun. 

I have a feeling that not many people feel that their jobs are fun. And that makes me really sad. We spend most of our adult lives working. How sad would it be to spend that time doing something you don't like?

I think this is a big reason why I work so hard to help kids enjoy school and learning. I want every student I meet to have the chance to do something they love as an adult. I don't want them to have to take a job they hate just to make enough money to survive. I want them to thrive and strive for excellence. 

It is funny. When I started this post, I didn't know that this is where it would end up. But this is true. The reason I teach is so that I can help children find their way to excellence. 

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