On May 15, 1941, Joltin' Joe DiMaggio hit a single in a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox. Big deal, right? Hall of Fame ballplayers have experienced more impressive offensive outputs than that. What makes that hit special, however, is that the seemingly innocuous base hit was the start of The Streak. The Yankee Clipper proceeded to get a hit in every game for an unprecedented -- and since unmatched -- 56 games.
Yes, The Streak is one of baseball's most revered statistics. (And this says a lot for a game in which a batter's on-base percentage vs. a left-handed pitcher in a night game on a Tuesday in July in a domed stadium during a bobble-head giveaway is actually accessible and shared with the TV audience.) Former baseball commissioner Ford Frick called it "unbeatable." The Baseball Almanac refers to it as "unbreakable." A New York Times article called it "baseball's most mythic achievement." Baseball purists generally agree that 56 is "untouchable."
I say, "Hogwash!"
I am a firm believer in the 57-game hitting streak.
Sure, it hasn't happened yet (the closest was Pete Rose's 44-game streak in 1978), but it's a possibility, isn't it? What's to say that a record, even one as hallowed as DiMaggio's Streak, is the mark of absolute perfection, something that cannot be topped? For that matter, what's to say that anything of greatness can't be somehow improved upon, made better, enhanced, or outdone? Why can't there be a 57-game hitting streak?
As I work and talk with educators around the country, I'm struck by how often I still hear the sighing lines
"We can't do that here."
"Not with our ______ (fill in the blank: staff, demographics, principal, PTA, teachers' union, violence, superintendent, parking lot, etc.)."
"That wouldn't work with these kids."
"We've squeezed as much blood as we can out of this turnip."
Why can't we do it here? Seriously: Why not?
Whenever I hear the word can't, I try to figure out if there's a can in there.
Have you heard of Lorraine Monroe, who revitalized the Fredrick Douglass Academy in New York City? What about Erin Gruwell? Rick DuFour? Joe Clark? Charlie Coleman? You may recognize those names because they're educators who have made remarkable progress and achieved incredible results in challenging educational environments. Those people have framed their lives around the word "can."
In fact, there are enough examples of against-the-odds teachers and principals out there that we should be continuously inspired to reach (and surpass) the high bars they've set for us. The models are available for us to follow. The "can" is waiting.
I see two steps that we can all take
Find the models and share them!
We need to come to grips with the fact that the well-known educators we read and hear about (in education journals, at conferences, and on made-for-TV specials) are but a minute sampling of the hordes of superb teachers and principals we have roaming our schools and classrooms. Perhaps we just don't have enough of them who are willing to share the great work they're doing so we can follow their lead!
When you hear, observe, or do work that exceeds normal expectations or realizes terrific results, encourage the parties responsible to share: write, post, blog, shout, or present. It's an obligation to the profession to share such best-practices; it's not braggadocio.
If you're looking for models to follow, do some digging to find schools similar to yours (in population, demographics, or interior design, for example) that have excelled. Use Web sites such as www.allthingsplc.info and Education Trust to start your search. It's amazing how many great schools are out there with effective structures or elements that we can all emulate.
Remove the ceilings!
The individuals listed above are not all Joe DiMaggios: they're just regular people like you and I. They just believed so fervently, so passionately, and so resolutely that they refused to accept anything less than excellence.
That, my friends, is replicable.
We can all embrace the can-do attitude that leads to breakthroughs and astonishing success.
In our dreams, in our ultimate realities, and in our visions of the future, all things are possible. We don't deflate our wishes and ambitions by placing artificial ceilings atop them. We strive for perfection -- or at least continued improvements. We set goals that exceed what has been done before. We aim high, we raise the bar, we push the envelope -- because we know that when we believe, we can.
Conversely, what if we settled? What if mediocrity was acceptable? What if the best we can do is what we've already done? What if we never wondered what we could really do if we applied everything we know and could learn? What if we never challenged the limits of our potential? We'd still be sitting in the cave, shivering in front of a pile of dry sticks, watching yet another deer wander by as we looked blankly at one another.
Go get that seemingly innocuous single and start the 57-game hitting streak for yourself.
Always strive to be a better you,
Article by Pete Hall
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