Over the past 20 years I have read every article and book that Dr. Richard DuFour has written. He is a gifted writer and speaker. In each of his publications Rick has added to the body of knowledge in our profession and clarified the principles and practices that impact student learning. Not only has he served as a knowledge leader but he is also a lead practitioner. He has demonstrated that he knows what to do and can actually implement the practices that result in high levels of learning for all students. He has achieved remarkable results as a teacher, principal, and superintendent. His work has spanned the globe and given more hope to more students and educators than anything before or after him. I am proud and honored to call him a mentor, friend, and fellow educator. Recently I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of his latest book, In Praise of American Educators: And How They Can Become Even Better. It struck me as the most direct and moving book I have ever read. As I read each page, I kept thinking this is “spot on”!
In the past decade our nation has not lacked for opinions, journal articles, media pundits, sponsored university research, state-initiatives, and federal government approaches, and a never-ending list of things schools particularly failing schools “should” do. In all of these areas, the focus has been, in large part, on draconian accountability demands on teachers and principals. In this book Rick DuFour contends that the focus of these efforts is misguided.
For the 40 plus years that I have been in this profession, educators have waited for the next mandate from the state or national government. The question was always the same: How will we meet this mandate? Or what do we need to do to be in compliance? In spite of these distractions and mandates educators continued to focus on meeting the learning needs of the students they serve. Rick DuFour points out that we are the “Greatest Generation of Educators”. He outlines a series of indicators that definitively support this assertion. Our generation of educators has been expected to educate all students in an archaic system that was never designed to educate all students. In Praise of American Educators: And How They Can Become Even Better is not about compliance with these external mandates but instead it calls for a commitment from educators to improve our schools from the inside out.
Improving Our Schools From the Inside Out
There has never been greater worldwide consensus on how to improve student achievement. We already know what it takes to improve our schools. The real challenge is implementing what we know. Pfeffer and Sutton refer to this as the “Knowing-Doing Gap”. Until teachers and administrators acknowledge their responsibility for perpetuating isolation and commit to creating a new culture of schooling, little is likely to happen. In Praise of American Educators: And How They Can Become Even Better serves as a call to action. It is time that the greatest generation of educators implements the most promising practices for increased student achievement with fidelity. At this juncture our profession has a better understanding than ever of the specific PLC process and what must be done to put those elements in place.
These three points that Rick DuFour stresses in the book will resonate with me forever:
- Our profession has within its sphere of influence the ability to create conditions that can lead to dramatic improvement in both student and adult learning.
- No one has forbidden us to create these conditions.
- We must accept responsibility for the fact that these conditions are not yet the norm in American schools.
Those words translate to these actions in my mind…
Be the master of your own fate! Take personal responsibility for transforming our schools from the inside. We can no longer wait for someone else or some new initiative, strategy or mandate to come along. It is time for us to do what we know is the right work. There is no greater time to begin because the expectations have never been higher for our students. This is the work that will literally save the lives of our children. And isn’t this the reason we became educators in the first place?
Pfeffer, J., & Sutton, R. (2000). The knowing-doing gap: How smart companies turn knowledge into action. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.