In essence, Ron Berger epitomises what is meant by having high expectations. In reality, many schools portray themselves as having a culture of high expectations yet their words are not shown by the actions of the staff and student body.
In an Ethic of Excellence, Ron Berger identifies steps he has taken to ensure that all students, regardless of prior attainment, become confident individuals who can benefit society and who accept nothing less than their best effort.
Ron really does teach by the mantra “If it’s not excellent, it’s not finished.” He teaches mainly by designing projects for his students to conduct. He ensures that state curricula elements are taught within these projects and occasionally breaks down projects to teach individual topics in a lesson. Through project work, students have a greater understanding of the purpose of their work. For example, he amalgamated many different subjects together by conducting a local community water investigation into mineral levels in drinking water.
Ron also advocates making students’ work public by creating portfolios that students take with them through school. By making work public, Ron has found that students take extra pride in their work and often produce several drafts before their final piece. They have also been found to put in slightly higher effort knowing that their work is up for public scrutiny at exhibitions and conferences.
Overall, the strongly held belief that every student, regardless of prior attainment, is capable of extraordinary and excellent things is the recurring theme throughout as long as the expectations of a teacher are high enough.
Possible Practical Implications
1) Only accept the very finest work from students, “if it’s not excellent, it’s not finished.”
2) Try and instil a school or classroom culture that prides itself on excellence.
3) One can attempt to create this culture by concentrating on ‘beautiful work.’ Over time, this will become ingrained in students’ perceptions.
4) Teach character along with academia. It is not enough to solely concentrate on academic grades, we must produce well-rounded individuals who are capable of presenting themselves confidently to others.
5) When students see their work as being a tool to a better life, they put in that little bit extra. We could try and constantly reiterate the power of education to those most disadvantaged who may be unaware to see it themselves.
6) Show what good work looks like, or what students are aiming for. By showing what to aim for, students are more likely to achieve it.
7) Support character development and collaborative improvements. Instead of writing “This makes no sense,” try writing “I’m confused by this” so they get the same message with a subtly softer undertone.
8) If students do poorly on tests, simply get them to do a re-test. This shows them that the teacher expects nothing less than their best effort and that the teacher believes in them to improve their score.
9) Try and create opportunities to showcase student work at regular intervals to the public and/or parents so students have an audience for their work and can take slightly more pride in their work.
An inspiring read that is concise, straight-to-the-point, and offers great examples in order to strive for excellence with our pupils. Get your copy below!