“Sometimes all you need for exceptional results is average effort repeated for an above-average amount of time.”James Clear – May 11, 2023 Newsletter
Whether I'm walking the halls of my workplace or those of a school across the world, I've long accepted an obvious fact: I'm an average teacher.
If you were to come into my classroom today, you'd see an unremarkable lesson. The students would be unsurprised at the activities on the lesson plan, as they would be nothing new. We read, write, take notes, quiz ourselves, speak. Very little novelty. Basically the opposite of the cutting edge.
But despite this normalcy, I've seen my students do amazing things. As freshmen in one of our school's largest open-enrollment AP classes, my students consistently beat the national pass rate, despite being a year younger than most test-takers. More impressively, they persist in the face of daily challenges; they grow accustomed to exerting uncomfortable amounts of mental effort. They make peace with the states of being overwhelmed or bored, learning how to overcome them. They face their fears of public speaking. They write more essays than they ever have before.
Why are such things possible in a classroom helmed by an average teacher? It's because I've long embraced the idea that it's not flashy effort that counts, it's wise effort. I do my best to do the things I write about in my books — never perfect, but always trying. I bring to bear on my practice the basic yet powerful Principles of Learning I'm teaching about in my new asynchronous course. And I have a lot of fun doing these things, basic and humdrum though they often seem.
It's not the flash that counts — it's the persistence, the endurance. It's the daily partnership with reality. I know from the research and from experience that these things I practice work, and when you work them over the long-term they work exceptionally well, both for my students' long-term flourishing and my own.
So colleague, if you feel that you're a bit average, too, take heart. Average effort applied with an above-average degree of consistency over time can yield excellent results.