The Power of Mediocrity

Mediocrity. It’s one of those things that we all have an opinion on. Some of us think we have an opinion on it, only to learn that how we think we feel is not really how we feel at all once the rubber hits the road.

It’s incredibly powerful, mediocrity. Much like Olivander says of Voldemort in Harry Potter, “… terrible but great…”  Think on that for a minute.

As a teacher, being willing to accept mediocre results, or even worse, encouraging it, does nothing but harm the education of our students. Many of us don’t even realize we encourage it. It’s sad, really. The power of mediocrity so great, it aids in the downfall of schools today. More importantly, it is the ultimate disservice to children. Children deserve to be taught, to be encouraged to learn as much as they can, to find ways to fulfill dreams, to blaze their own trail through life. What happens when a student encounters expectations that are mediocre? They rise to that level… and often, only to that level.

It’s a cycle of sorts. After several encounters of getting an A on what is really mediocre work, that becomes the new standard. The new level for an A. It reflects across the grades. A group of students comes out at a level that is less than what they are capable of. The new teacher often decides that standards need to be lowered to allow the student to be successful. Welcome to mediocrity 2.0.

Slowly, over time, massive numbers of students are being mediocre-ized. (Yeah, made that one up) It’s a cycle that has to stop. In order for it to stop, change must happen, and must be supported by schools, parents, and teachers.

What is best for the student is not an A. What is best for the student is learning. If what the student demonstrates he/she has learned deserves an A, fine. If not, then it is our duty to push that student to get to that level. No one really wants their child to be a C or D student. Some accept it, but in reality, no one really wants that. Deep down inside, somewhere, we want students to succeed. Unfortunately, many view having straight As as a sign of having been successful. Straight As, however, can be incredibly harmful to a students learning if they are given frivolously. Success is not easily defined, but unfortunately, standardized testing has become the way to demonstrate success in many schools today. Sad.

People teach to a test in a effort to look like the teacher succeeded, but teaching to a test is setting a level of mediocrity in itself.  Think about that, teachers are concerned about looking like THEY succeeded. Should we not be more concerned about students succeeding? Sure, we may look like we have done great things, but what has the student really learned in our quest to score at a certain level on that test? Raise the DOK level of the activities your students are working on.

I would argue that teaching kids to think critically about everything they read, struggle through texts that challenge them, debate things with their peers, do all of the things that we know will help them actually learn and become invested in the process. Don’t spend your days teaching a test. That will fall into place if learning is happening. Create experiences for students to interact with what they are learning.

Get out of your bubble. Get out there and find ideas that work for others, and try them. Develop a PLN of your own. Read blogs. Get on Twitter and find a few Twitter Chats you can get into. Ask questions, try things out, and don’t be afraid if something falls apart.

We expect our students to learn constantly. To effectively battle the mediocrity that is creeping it’s way into our classrooms, we must model that learning ourselves. We must embrace the technology that kids use. We can’t fight the fact that it is there, instead, harness it’s power. Don’t know how to use it? Figure it out.

Educational technology can play a huge role in combating mediocrity in schools, but it is NOT the be all end all. It, by itself, is nothing but a tool. Worthless if left unused, harmful if used incorrectly. Think of it as a hammer. Just sitting there, a hammer does nothing. It has the power to be used to build great things. However, it also has the power to destroy. Make integration of tech in your classroom meaningful. Use it to fight the disease of being mediocre.