CURT FINCH: Excellence

Submitted by Curtis Finch, PhD
MOISD Superintendent

BIG RAPIDS — It was Aristotle who said, “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an event, it’s a habit.”

In a culture that craves immediate feedback, it’s hard to want to do the extra work to make excellence a habit; it’s even harder to accomplish it in an organization. The many moving parts of any system make a consistent direction difficult to obtain, and even more difficult to sustain.

One of the most important parts of sustaining direction in a start-up business is to establish consistent leadership and a continuity of messages. Yes, companies may switch to selling a different product to save themselves from going out of business, but they don’t change the core of their company – the “why.”

In education, we don’t sell A or B, but the district must promote and provide examples of what excellence looks like and how to attain it. Students are not products coming down the factory belt looking for a missing part, the “excellent” education of a student centers around meeting each student’s individual needs. Where they are at intellectually, socially, emotionally and academically.

Leadership provides a consistent drive in a system: bus drivers, custodians, para-educators, teachers, support staff, administration and board members must all be educational leaders in that student’s life; adults with the same “excellence of habit” message and reality. Parents, relatives, community members and neighbors must support that message through language and action.

I still remember today specific words from important adults in my life who shaped my life choices.

There are several leadership ingredients that make an adult valued to that student. First, the adult must be honest with the student by example. Youth are smart and know when an adult in their life is saying one thing and doing the opposite.

Second, the student will gain more respect for the adult when there is a consistent history to look back upon. The most respected adults in my life were the ones I witnessed being the same person under stress as they were when the storm passed.

Lastly, leaders in their lives must be trustworthy; when the quest for excellence matches the dependable life of the adult the message becomes more credible to the student.

Yes, “excellence” at anything should be a message emphasized by leaders, but employees and students are watching these adults, to see if the message is a passing event, or if it’s a habit.

Dr. Finch can be reached at and followed on Twitter at CFinchMOISD.


Posted by Katlyn Vuillemot

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