What is Success?

So its been over three weeks since my last blog post! I’ve known what I wanted to write about since my last post but the start of the year made it hard to sit and write.

We are now entering our third full week of school and tomorrow will be the 7th meeting for my BD day classes. I must say that this year has been off to a fantastic start with my students….. I love the energy and creativity they bring everyday.

I have implemented several things from “Teach like a Pirate” and “Explore Like A Pirate”…. as well as several other strategies from my stellar summer of self directed PD.

The first day was a hit with the #TLAP “Play-Doh” lesson and I learned more from that on a first day than any interview sheet ever could provide. We defined the “why”, “what”, and “how” for the “The Always Awesome” (our classroom precepts). We formed the “Factions”  (class names)  and established “pods” (groups for the quarter) for “The Quest”—-our version of a gamified classroom….and did the Marshmallow Challenge to build pod bonds. Overall we have built an enormously positive learning community and started to build our understanding of the Historical Thinking skills we will use to understand the Enduring Issues through the content we will cover this year. Student feedback so far has been positive and they seem happier and more engaged.

We also had a lesson that surrounded the question “What is Success?” and I think that it merits consideration not only for teachers and students but all human beings. In education we have seen the beginnings of positive shifts away from defining success through test scores and grades ( I am thankful for the work of Rick Wormeli for shifting my own mindset on grades…and Joy Kirr for making me think even further). I think we have begun to make a positive shift towards the “Growth Mindset” and changing some of the culture of education for the better. We have embraced the idea that failure is part of the learning and that FAIL means “First Attempt In Learning” and, if you extend it further, FAILURE means “First Attempt In Learning Unless Reflection Exists“—all positive movements in our process as educators.

So if we can define or contextualize Failure,  What is Success?

For my entire career as an educator I have used John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success and his definition of Success to help students guide themselves to success in life. Wooden’s definition is:

“Success is piece of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming”

Wooden’s Pyramid then lays a way to build the necessary traits to achieve success—starting with the cornerstones of “Industriousness”(Hard work) and “Enthusiasm” with “Friendship”, “Loyalty”, and “Cooperation” between them to form the Pyramids foundation. The next layer has “Self Control”, “Alertness”, “Initiative”, and “Intentness”. The third level has “Condition”, “Skill” (essentially in the center), and “Team Spirit”. That builds to “Poise” and “Confidence”—which are capped by “Competitive Greatness”. There are endless books on John Wooden and his Pyramid of Success.

I try to reference the Pyramid of Success daily and incorporate life lessons that hit on their teachings—often through what I call “Food for Thought”….a weekly quote aimed to hit on a block in the Pyramid. I created a version of the Pyramid that covers almost half of a classroom wall because I reference it so much.

I believe that this definition does a few things. I believe it empowers people because it defines success by our own inward reflection, it gives us control, and it personalizes what success is. Success for one person doesn’t necessarily look like success for another. Its not about the outcome, its about the self satisfaction that you did YOUR best. I often share that the most successful team I have ever been a part of wasn’t the 2005 NCAA team at Niagara University or the 2007 State Runner-Up Finish at Dr. Phillips…..it was the 6-12 team at Lincoln Park Academy because they maximized their potential (I believe 8 of the 12 loses were under 3 points—and we were the slowest, shortest, and most inexperienced team in our league) each time out. I believe that its freeing for students and provides greater ownership of outcomes—regardless of the “score”.

If I am being REAL, as one of my “EDUHeroes” Tara Martin teaches, last year I didn’t  adhere to Wooden’s definition of success or incorporate his Pyramid of Success the way I had in years past. For several reasons I entered “survival mode” and let outside forces define what it meant to be successful and trying to meet those led to severe anxiety.

That experience has led to a greater understanding of students who struggle with anxiety and a greater belief in the value of Wooden’s definition. It has become a vital learning experience about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and I’ve been making a comeback this year.

One reason I am extremely thankful for discovering “Teach Like A Pirate” and the “DBC Inc Universe” is that it helped me hit that “reset button” and re-connect with Wooden’s definition of Success. I have regained some of my confidence (still a work in progress) and the last few weeks with students have been absolutely amazing!

I’ve learned that defining success in the Wooden way is vital because it internalizes success and fits all the growth mindset shift we are trying to make in education—and I believe its the way a “PIRATE” would define success.

As always, please remember….

“Every day you wake up is a good day!” 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Joy Kirr says:

    Rich, you taught me two new things – “First Attempt In Learning Unless Reflection Exists“ and John Wooden’s pyramid (which I now have to click on to see more). Thank you for sharing – I’m so glad you started blogging! (No matter if it’s been three weeks – just write when it feels right!)

    Liked by 1 person

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