Find Your “One Thing”


The end of the school year brings a mixture of emotions for teachers, students, parents and administrators. Focusing on the myriad of items on the “to do” list can send everyone into a tailspin of anxiety. What are the most important things that need to get done? What tasks support the ultimate purpose of education, academic growth for each student?

This spring my administrative colleagues in Farmington and I chose to read a book, The One Thing, by Gary Keller. The premise of this book is that there is one thing in each area of your life, that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary. I have to admit that at this time of year, that premise sounded very appealing. Is there “one thing” I can focus on that will make all the busyness of this time of year easier to handle and make life more productive? I read on. 

Keller uses the example of a Domino Chain Reaction (click here to check it out) to make the point that by doing the smallest, or the first thing, of the “one thing” you can cause a chain reaction that will help you attain your long term goals. He advocates for working backwards from your ultimate goal to your “right now” goal which will help you do one thing this week that contributes to success in the long term. The big question is “What is the One Thing?” Each of us has to decide what that One Thing is for our personal and professional life. Keller describes purpose and priority as being the foundation on which to base your one thing. By identifying and establishing your purpose and priority, productivity will increase.

Since learning is the purpose of education, I applied the practices Keller suggests to the topic of personalized learning. James Rickabaugh’s book, Tapping the Power of Personalized Learning, espouses the value in creating a new paradigm for education where the learner is central to the process. He advocates for an educational system where teachers coach and guide students on their path of learning that is driven by their individual student profile. Teachers and students together design this customized learning path. Students are engaged in their learning because it is purposeful. They know the “why” of their learning and are therefore committed to making progress. Rickabaugh makes the case that our current educational practices, Legacy Practice, is insufficient for the 21st Century learner’s needs.

Using a Personalized Learning Practice, the learners and teachers are interdependent. This practice will better equip students for success. How do these seemingly unrelated books impact an administrator’s springtime angst? If Personalized Learning is the goal, using the “One Thing” approach will make the goal attainable. Working backwards from the ultimate goal, to what needs to be done today, I can tip the first domino and begin to affect change. It’s never too late to start, even when the countdown to June is upon us.

Article by:
Principal Lisa Reichelt
Akin Road Elementary
Farmington Area Public Schools

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