Thursday, April 13, 2006

The 10-pound dilemma

If you've ever been on a diet, you know that the last 10 pounds are the hardest to lose. You've worked hard to lose the first 20 (okay, 30) pounds. You're starting to look pretty good. But then you hit a plateau, and that's it -- the pounds stop falling off. Losing that last 10 pounds is exponentially harder than it was to drop the first 10, and it would be so much easier to just accept good instead of pushing for great.

Schools face the same dilemma. They come to a point where they're good. Maybe even really good. But the problem with "good" is that it's hard to push onward to "great." Doing most things pretty well keeps many people pretty happy. And let's face it -- change is hard.

Several people have asked me if I write on this blog because I think the school is bad. Nothing could be further from the truth! Robert and I hitched our proverbial wagon to the horse that is Indonesia precisely because we think that JIS is good.

But is being good good enough? Is it negative or pessimistic to want something better? I don't think so -- in fact, I'd argue that pushing for improvement is the ultimate statement of hope and belief in an institution. After all, we have other options. But none of those options, in my opinion, are as good for our family as sticking with JIS and helping it grow from Good to Great.

So that's what this blog is about. Does questioning the current way that things are done mean that they're done poorly? No -- but it does imply a willingness to look honestly at the cold, hard facts and try to envision something better. Is school improvement an easy process? No -- but the end results can be amazing.
  • Imagine a JIS so great that employees beg their companies for a posting in Indonesia so that their kids can attend.
  • Imagine standards and a curriculum so fantastic that teachers are rushing the JIS recruiting tables at the hiring fairs just to have a chance to teach here, despite the challenges and travails of living in Indonesia.
  • Imagine a professional development program so cutting edge that JIS has to use a shoehorn to get a little teacher turnover.
These are the kinds of things we should be dreaming about -- and then doing the hard work necessary to make them reality. Those are JIS' last 10 pounds.


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