Recently at the World Match Play Championships, the two best golfers in the world lost in the first round: “Tiger and Rory Ousted.” Two days earlier, Barcelona with Lionel Messi, the most prolific scorer in the world lost to AC Milan 2-0 in a Champions League match. Even the best in world cannot control the results on any one day. However, what they can control is the process, the mental and physical preparation that led them to being the best in the world. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will simply recommit to their process of preparation to play golf tournaments, or perhaps they may re-examine what they have been doing to make sure it is the best process to achieve their goals.
A former student of mine is a bodybuilder and his recent experience illustrates the importance of process over results. His ramp up to a competition takes about three months involving not only weightlifting, but aerobic work and a special diet. After an agonizing three months, he won his group in a recent show and placed second in the overall competition. He felt, and many others told him, that he should have won, but rather than lament the judges or the general unfairness of any competition that is judged by humans, he focused on the preparation he had done.
He noted that other competitors including the winner had done more aerobic work than he had, and they had spent more time practicing poses. His attitude was if my process of preparation is the best it can be, then I will be so good that the judges can’t choose against me. He believed his process, not the judges, had caused him to lose.
We can’t always control the results but we can control the process. Unfortunately, it is easy to find news about results and much harder to find news or information about process. In Kentucky, we know through headlines the educational assessment results of their Common Core State Standards aligned test, but we know very little about the process, however truncated, Kentucky educators used to prepare for that assessment. We know when Tiger and Rory win and lose, but we have to be dedicated to find out how they prepare to win.
Though sports analogies are not perfect for education, they help remind us as we transition to Common Core implementation that we need to focus on our process rather than on the results we want to get. We need to make sure that the processes we use to develop curriculum and the processes we use to instruct that curriculum are the best they can be. If we focus on results—test scores—we will shortchange the processes for quick fixes that we believe will manipulate scores. We will do what we can do quickly rather than taking the time to figure out what we ought to do.
I cannot overstate the importance of focusing on good processes over quick fix processes that are driven by an over emphasis on results. Here is an example of a teacher’s cry for help that appeared on a National Council of Teachers English forum:
“Hi. My school administration is basing ALL the reading we do in high school in Lexile scores for books. Ergo, I was told Fahrenheit 451, The Stranger, and The Grapes of Wrath are FOURTH GRADE READING LEVEL, and “should not be taught anymore.”…. . I am frustrated. Am I correct in being so? Can Anyone give me some input as to why SOLELY BASING READING CHOICES ON LEXILE LEVELS is no valid?”
I always assume good intentions, and I am sure the administration in this school feels they are doing a good thing in terms of ramping up text complexity. However, this is a perfect illustration of what can be done right now as opposed to taking the time to understand the issue of secondary reading and then seeking a reasonable solution that implements a strong high school reading program.
As I have repeatedly lamented, what will cause the Common Core State Standards initiative to fail is a focus on assessment results rather than a focus on the processes of curriculum and instruction. It will take wise educators to ignore quick fixes and short term results while they build a process that assures long term success.