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The Importance of Greatness

This past week Dr. Foster and I attended the National Association of Independent Schools’ conference in Philadelphia. There are outstanding speakers every year as well as an opportunity to meet with, and glean ideas and perspectives from, educators around the world. This year was no exception. I walked away with many ideas and much information that, for me, confirms our exciting future.

It was our keynote speaker Jim Collins who set the tone. Collins is the author of many books, but perhaps most widely known is Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. While this book focused on business, Collins insists that moving from good to great has less to do with thinking like a business leader and far more to do with culture, discipline and creativity.

As Collins points out, it is not enough to settle on being a good organization- one must aspire to greatness. Several comments he made stay with me as I return to St. Clement’s:

  •  “Good is the enemy of great.” We must study and recognize the difference between good and great.
  • “Great schools acculturate.”  We must continue to create and perpetuate an intentional culture: shaped and modeled by the staff.
  • “The signature of mediocrity is not the lack of desire to change but chronic inconsistency.” Collins indicates that we must stop looking for the next best program but rather ensure discipline around our focus such that we are the best.
  • “Creativity must be blended with discipline: perseverance and determination. Creativity is natural, while discipline is not.”
  •  “Honour passion.” It is impossible to have a great life if it doesn’t have meaning.

As I continue to reflect on these nuggets, I know that they are as important for our girls as they are for us as an organization. We model striving for our best, and expect our girls to aspire to theirs. To be clear, this does not simply mean strong academic achievement, but a more complete approach to all that they do and all about which they are passionate. While we are ensuring academic excellence- which is at our core- we are also building a culture of discipline. We do this by guiding decisions and ultimately ensuring that our students are able to independently navigate difficult situations with consistent creativity, perseverance and a growth mindset.

Collins emphasizes that greatness is not a function of circumstance but of conscious choice and discipline.

We are excited and confident about St. Clement’s path to greatness.

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