Moving Beyond Adequate

‘All learning begins when our comfortable ideas turn out to be inadequate.’ ~ John Dewey

This quote from John Dewey has really got me thinking. How do we move from acceptance of adequacy? The status-quo. The norm. Our comfort zone. I catch myself doing it all the time. I find myself in that all too familiar place where I’m just fine with the way things are. I don’t know if I would call it a rut per-se. Some might. I catch myself and think, “Kyle, you’ve got to take it to the next level, then help teachers do the same. Which we want to ultimately impact students and their learning experiences.” As the quote states, I can’t let my ideas get too comfortable. How do we measure inadequacy? Is it OK for some practices to stay adequate for longer than others? Am I trying to develop a new professional mission statement? Brother, one paragraph in and I feel like this could easily be multiple posts!

In my profession I obviously would be focusing the idea of “taking it to the next level” on technology to enhance teacher instruction and student learning experiences. Even if we weren’t talking specific to technology, how do you plan to take it to the next level in your classroom this year? If you’re in a similar position mine, what do you plan to do to offer more enriching PD experiences and support for teachers? For me, one thing I plan to be better at is sharing/showing concrete examples when I share a new tool or resource with teachers. Not just say, “This is a cool tool and you should use it.” Not that I haven’t done this nor have I ever said that. I believe I can do it better. I believe I can do lots of things better. I plan on hashing out those specific items as I start the coming school year.

I just don’t want things to be adequate for too long. So many in my PLN want to bring about real change. We can’t let adequate stay around for too long if we want true change to occur. We might have to get more creative with our efforts as times continue to be tough, but we must adapt just like we do with anything else.

My friend Mary Beth Hertz shared this video recently via Twitter. It’s by Alan November and it’s called Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom. There are many key points in this video that I think we need to take heed of if we’re going to truly move beyond adequate in our districts and classrooms. Key components to the change that so many of us seek.

As I challenge myself to move beyond adequate, I hope you will do the same. Let’s exceed adequate! Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your comments.


19 thoughts on “Moving Beyond Adequate”

  1. We have a difficult time coming to consensus on terms such as ‘adequate, reform, collaboration,’ etc. Heck, we (educators/parents) probably have a difficult time coming up with a working definition for ‘consensus.’ Really appreciate this post — perhaps we all define for ourselves when is ‘good enough, enough’ and when we need to step up our game. And try not to judge others too much when we feel they’ve fallen woefully short of our agendas. (These are just thoughts–not an argument or debate.)

    As a fortunate teacher in a 1:1 classroom, my first wish is that every student had access to free Internet in their homes. Then, oh boy, look out! Because right now, we are far from what I would even deem adequate for our children.

  2. Adequate, to me, is a level, not a stopping point. At the adequate level, I feel like, “Hey! I’m catching on, but I’m not there yet.”

    Do we want adequate work from our students, or do we want outstanding? Or mastery? Adequate is only acceptable for a short period of time.

    It should be the same thing for educators. We should be modeling learning stages for our students, and that means taking a deeper look at our own professional growth. If it’s incorporating new ideas into our teaching and learning, then adequate is only one step… but we have to move forward from there. It’s just not enough.

    Great post, Kyle!

  3. Funny that you should begin with a John Dewey quote as I’ve been steeped in his writing for the last few days as part of my graduate work in a curriculum development class.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about exactly this topic…especially in examining my own teaching. You ask a great question here… how DO we measure inadequacy? I guess it depends on what it is we want our students to be able to do at the end of their time with us. Pass a test? Be skilled? Be curious? Creative? A self-directed learner?
    Fodder for multiple posts, indeed.

    And thanks for including this great video with Alan November! One of the ways I’m planning on taking things to the next level this year is shifting control over to my students…and I’m interested (but brand new) in how to give them the opportunity to do the kinds of student-to-student collaboration on a global level that November speaks to here.

    I’ll certainly be coming back to this blog to read more in follow up posts on the subject! 🙂

  4. AS far as I am concerned there is no room for “adequate” in education today. One of the main reasons that our educational system is in it’s current state is because so many educators (teachers and administrators) feel that adequate is acceptable. They do not feel a need to push themselves or are not pushed to be great. It is all about being intrinsically motivated! Moving beyond adequacy requires a shift in attitude, vision, resources, and culture. Education needs leaders like you Kyle to model, support, and listen to those educators that do not accept adequacy. Keep up the good fight!

    1. A big part of the problem is that proficient and adequate have become one and the same on many high-stakes tests. We see this in low “proficiency” cut scores, and in test reporting publications that use words like “adequate” and “satisfactory” to define proficiency–a far cry from the dictionary definition, which includes “advanced” or “competent” or “skilled.” It’s no wonder, then, that some educators would accept adequate, as Eric S. has asserted. On the other hand, I’ve worked with many school leaders and teachers who’ve withstood pressure to lower their standards, and have not only raised the bar, but helped students reach it.

  5. Gosh! Thanks for posting this Kyle. We’re so on the same page about taking it to the next level. At a time in my district when some are worried about moving too fast because they’re worried about leaving some teachers behind; I’m setting some of the same goals you are regarding PD for this school year. I want to push beyond adequate as well, and I’m hopeful that you’ll share some of your stories as the year progresses. Thanks!

  6. Ooooh Kyle. You got me thinking and reflecting on this past year and thinking towards the Fall and beyond. I’ve focused so much on my classroom and my improvements and pushing beyond adequate that I’ve left my staff behind. I wanted to use a model like Techin20 to share some of the great tools I’ve been learning about from my PLN. So I polled my staff to see who would be interested in taking 20 minutes a week to learn something new. When one teacher replied I let him down. I gave up and just did my own thing. That was very inadequate.

    Luckily I shared the idea with my principal and my superintendent. They put the idea down as part of our PD plan for this coming school year. Maybe with my principal’s support I can get some of my colleagues into my room for a few minutes a week or maybe for a few minutes a month or whatever. Hopefully I can help them learn some of what I’m learning.

    So thank you for this post. I too will keep your idea in mind to use concrete examples when I share new tools with my colleagues. No more keeping all this great stuff to myself :o)

    1. After re-reading my comment I wanted to clarify something that I mis-wrote. When I wrote that one staff member replied to wanting to participate in a Techin20 type of sharing I meant to say that only one teacher out of 17 in the middle school. And he was a new teacher in the high school! (I kind of left those points out.) I was so disappointed that I gave up on it. The guy who volunteered did so to share as well. So it figured that the two who least needed it went for it. Not to mention I’m the tech coordinator for the middle school and he’s the tech coordinator for the high school! Ugh.

  7. Well put and well said as a true educational leader. This post goes along well with my mantra of being a lifelong learner. You and your colleagues inspire me as well!

  8. Thank you for your eloquent personal expression.

    There’s good news and bad news about “adequate”:

    First the bad news: I suspect it’s a “standard” reinforced by our culture. Too much fear of those who can/will go beyond.

    The good news: when we can/will go beyond, we have the satisfaction of knowing it was our own impetus– or our tenacity in gathering the right people, like your PLN, — to help us discover the next steps beyond “adequate.”

  9. Really thinking about this one. I feel like operating from the platform of dependence instead of interdepence is what keeps us adequate only. I am learning that so many people do not know what it is like to move to the next level beyond adequate. In my job I support others learning and I strive to shift people’s paradigms. I create situations, ask questions, listen, literally move bodies into certain spaces so people can learn. I so love doing this but lately my paradigm has exposed the adequate attitude that so many have- that is they just don’t get “it” nor are they capable yet- sounds almost obnoxious of me to say, but I can pick out the” adequate settlers” out of the group and label them by years- “she’s got a few more years to learn- he needs a decade- or it’s just around the corner for her.”. Those I like cause nudging them on is awesome!

    It’s the people who are years away I can’t seem to be bothered with- I could be dead wrong- maybe I don’t even know what “it” is but thanks for making me think.

    By the way I do care about all learners- even those who will never understand that we will never stop learning, and that connectivity is key!

  10. Hey, Kyle, thanks for the thoughtful post and for sharing the video. I love what November says about control. I find this to be the biggest problem today. Every year, I try to get my district to be more progressive-minded. I push for new Web 2.0 applications to be unblocked by our network servers, so we teachers can be more effective.

    The shared myths in the video are also interesting. Not sure I agree with all of them (I do think technology can make kids smarter, if teachers educate them how to use the technology to improve learning).

    November’s idea of reflection is also important. He discusses the idea of incorporating media for this reflection. This is what I mean by teaching kids to use the technology for learning.

    Great post. Thanks.

    1. When the issue of control came up it and how education basically has stayed stuck in the Industrial Age – “i.e. follow my directions, be compliant, etc.” – it really resonated for me. This has come up in a few different videos and blog posts recently and has made me think about how much I’m stuck in that old paradigm. How much do I let students get into the thinking/reflecting/creating process? I honestly love the challenge of the new paradigm Web 2.0 brings. Will those who make the policies and are “test score” driven – those driven by their own cultural paradigms, as well, open themselves up to seeing it differently? Maybe it’ll take another 10 years until that group is gone. IDK.

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