As an educator, metacognition fascinates me.  Metacognition can be defined as “Cognition about cognition,” or “Knowing about knowing.  Realizing that “learning” comes before “knowing,” “Learning about learning” is fundamental to a teacher’s methods of instruction.  It encompasses how learning happens, and what needs to happen for learners to learn.  It’s the basis of the identification of learning styles, including pedagogy (teaching children) and andragogy (teaching adults), multiple intelligences, and other theories that impact the attainment of excellence in education.

Personally, I’ve long held the theory that everyone learns differently than every other person does, so that no single approach to information presentation will guarantee that a learner in the classroom will learn…even though all learners can learn.  As a student of andragogy, I love the connections that adults can make to materials presented from their wealth of personal experiences, and recent brain research is finding that reviewing the same information over and over again builds the neural pathways that explains how memorization and quick access to information in our brains happens.  It’s also explains why a reliance on today’s technology for material that used to be a matter of memorization can actually impede learning.  Learning also involves analysis, and breaking things apart into their elemental constructs, so that commonality between two seemingly unrelated items can be made.  That provides a potential definition for creativity necessary for innovation.  Several years ago, such a connection happened for me….between Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, and the movie, Rat Race.

Mr. Collins’ work asserts that “Good is the enemy of Great,” due to the fact that corporations that are “Good” settle for good, because good is, well, good.  But today, good isn’t good enough.  His research focused on companies that made the leap from “Good” to “Great,” identifying key items that were common threads to their advancement.

The movie Rat Race is a remake of the 1960’s comedy, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  6 people are chosen in a Las Vegas casino to race to Silver City, New Mexico and open a locker containing two million dollars in cash.  While the movie is a hoot, a line from it has become very meaningful – “Good things happen little by little…Great things happen all at once.”

Therefore, if we want our schools to be good (and, in educational terms, settle for a “B”), we can take comfort in the fact that we’re plugging along methodically, following a step-by-step plan.  However, if we want our schools to be GREAT (and move to a “B+” or “A-“), we have to be prepared for the time that things will happen all at once, and know that things must happen all at once to attain greatness.

In the ARMED Framework which has developed, is it possible to focus on development, and then enrollment, and then marketing?  The answer is a resounding, “NO.”  These elements must be attended to simultaneously.  I would argue that one of the primary reasons why some schools are failing to grow today, even though their environment, academics and focus on faith-filled values exudes “excellence,” is the fact that these elements are taken one step at a time – development this year, enrollment next year, marketing the year after that, etc.  In truth, everything must be put into “play” – not necessarily into “place.”  What I mean by that is that we can’t wait to attain excellence (an “A” grade) in one elemental area before we begin to concentrate on another.  While we need to prioritize to focus our efforts (more about that later), priorities have to be fluid to allow for changes in opportunities that come along, or in changes that just “happen.”

And do great things happen in our schools?  Indeed they do – everyday!  Why?  Because “Great things happen when God mixes with us.”  Just remember that they’ll happen all at once.  Be ready for it.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2021 (Original publication date: 20061016)