Excellence: Whatever we do, we do it wholeheartedly to the best of our ability and for the glory of God alone. (from TeachBeyond Identity Statements)
Excellence – the last in the list of TeachBeyond core values – is a concept that conjures up a myriad of thoughts and emotions. Perhaps you have memories of basking in the glow of a job well-done…or feeling completely frustrated because you could never please a taskmaster teacher.
As an educator and a musician, I’ve struggled with this concept in many arenas of my life, as well as in my classroom. What does excellence look like? Does it look the same for all teachers, all students and all schools in every situation? How do we recognize excellence in ourselves, students, and institutions? As transformational educators, how does the concept of excellence impact what and how we teach?
The root word, excel, carries with it the sense of going beyond or surpassing. But what is it that we are going beyond? Where is the standard that we are attempting to surpass? The world, our teacher training, the Bible – they all give us standards and aspirations. The TeachBeyond statement (reprinted at the top of this article) says “to the best of our ability,” not to meet a particular standard. How can we know what excellence is? The statement says that our actions are “for the glory of God alone,” not our fame and reputation or that of others. As people who long for transformation in ourselves and others, we look to God for His standard while being motivated by the desire to bring Him glory in all that we are.
Rubics are often used as a tool by educators to communicate expectations of excellence. Since OnPractice is for educators, included here is a “Rubric for Excellence”. While this is a tongue-in-cheek effort and not intended for use with students or teachers, it captures some of the major issues we all need to wrestle with as we consider what the core value of excellence means in our classrooms and lives.
RUBRIC FOR EXCELLENCE
Topic Meets Expectations Does not meet Expectations
Orientation + Views excellence as action, a striving toward the next level, or a continual improvement (I Thess. 4:1). + Views excellence as a goal, resulting in stagnation, complacency, and/or pride.
Model + Uses Jesus Christ as a model (1 John 2:6). + Focuses on human models, resulting in a skewed perspective.
Perspective + Vertical – Views excellence as between self and God without comparing self to others (Gal 6:4) + Horizontal – Constantly compares self to others resulting in pride, discouragement, and/or burnout.
Motivation + Seeks only God’s glory + Craves attention, awards, advancement, and complements.
Intensity + Offers best effort “as unto the Lord” (Col 3:23) + Does whatever is necessary to receive the recognition, regardless of the consequences to self or others.
+ Makes just enough effort to get the desired recognition.
+ Says, “Why should I even try?”
Boundaries + Recognizes human limitations of time and space, doing what is possible and leaving the rest to God
(Prov. 3:5,6). + Obsesses over tasks, expending time and energy and ignoring God’s leading.
+ Gives minimal time to task so there’s more time for entertainment.
Focus + Pursues both outward demonstrations and internal character development. + Cares more about looking smart or talented than learning or growth.
+ Completely focused on inner life with no desire to meet expectations.
Mindset + Demonstrates a growth mindset, believing that hard work develops intelligence or talent (See Carol Dweck’s work on mindset.) + Believes and protects labels of “smart” or “not talented” rather than working to learn and grow by developing what God has bestowed.
Equipping + Relies on God’s power through the Holy Spirit when encountering difficult situations. + Does not trust God.
+ Relies completely on own strength.
+ Looks for short-cuts or the easy way out of difficult situations.
+ Expects others to rescue them.
So how do you rate on this rubric? How would you evaluate your students? As the first attribute highlights, excellence is a process. What looks like excellence at one time in one place is different than excellence in another situation. An excellent second grade science report is not the same as one completed by a PhD candidate.
Our role as educators is to model for our students while we disciple and inspire them to seek excellence as a way to bring praise and glory to God our Father. Everything we and our students do should be an act of worship that brings joy to our Heavenly Father. A friend of mine wrote a worship song that sums it up, “I was made to worship You, to bring You joy in all I do. ” Carol Dweck, Mindset https://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/  I Was Made to Worship You by Jody Abboud