Continuous Improvement

A bullshit workplace notion. Midway into artistic or athletic activities, jobs, careers, relationships, life, we plateau. Shortly thereafter, energy ebbs, and our performance erodes.

We improve for a bit, we plateau, we decline.

I observed a good second year math teacher today at the independent middle school. Then we conferenced. After listening to him reflect on the pre-algebra lesson, I listed his many strengths. Then I made a few suggestions. Call on Ben as soon as he puts his head on his desk. Give Robin your marker, take her seat, and have her teach everyone her prime factorization method by illustrating it on the board. Have two more students explain and illustrate their methods and then ask, “Which is most efficient and why?” Let the kite string out a bit and “guide from the side” for awhile. Remember, the educative effect is greater when students do something than when something is done to them.

He told me he likes it when I observe because he’s reminded of effective teaching methods that he has let slip. He’s a good second year teacher who has started to plateau because he’s rarely observed, and rarely gets to observe other, more accomplished teachers.

A small number of the very best teachers, artists, athletes, and people continue improving considerably longer than their peers by seeking out expert, critical feedback; by investing progressively more time and energy; and by surrounding themselves by other positive, hardworking people, who are trending upwards.

And the wisest teachers, artists, athletes, and people have a sixth sense for both when they’ve plateaued and when their performance has begun to decline. And then the wisest, most selfless, most financially secure of them, step aside to provide the next generation opportunities to improve, plateau, and decline.

What Work Will The Next Generation Do?

First and last sentences from an article in today’s WSJ titled “Even-In-A-Recovery-Some-Jobs-Won’t-Return”.

Even when the U.S. labor market finally starts adding more workers than it loses, many of the unemployed will find that the types of jobs they once had simply don’t exist anymore.

. . . Harvard’s Mr. Katz warns that past experience suggests. . . conjecture is likely fruitless. “One thing we’ve learned is that when we attempt to forecast jobs 10 or 15 years out, we don’t even get the categories right,” he says.

In other words, the economy is so fluid, it’s illogical to plan on having any particular job.

So what are young people to do?

I have lots of thoughts on the subject, but I’m curious about what you think?