100,000 Fully Engaged Tutors for
Teachers and Their Unions,
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers,
knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
— James 3:1 (NKJV)
In this chapter, we’ll look at the helpful roles that breakthrough tutors can play in helping teachers and their unions to accomplish more breakthroughs. Before considering the tutors’ ideal roles, let me provide important information about teaching and teachers that many potential breakthrough tutors may not appreciate.
If a youngster has any problem during a school day, many families are quick to charge a teacher with having made an error. Later in life, any setbacks a person experiences may also be ascribed to some action or inaction by his or her elementary or secondary school teachers. If an adult later accomplishes something in part due to having received a good education from a teacher’s efforts, only the most grateful will think to credit and to thank that teacher. To me, it seems as though teachers just can’t win on Earth while such attitudes and practices prevail. Fortunately, God loves and appreciates all teachers. I feel honored to join in sharing His love for them in this chapter.
In my experience, a teacher’s impact is often much different than what she or he realizes based on classroom observations or the credit or blame he or she receives. I am often surprised when I meet someone who took a short course with me decades earlier and discover that some small aspect of what we worked on became a central influence in that person’s life. Who knew such little things could mean so much? I can only conclude that such large impacts must be the result of God’s handiwork through the Holy Spirit.
The potential to influence a student excites me when I think about how much teachers can accomplish during two semesters with the same students. To demonstrate the potential, let me honor two of my favorite teachers, Miss Edna Parr and Mrs. Verna Reynolds, by sharing some personal learning experiences.
Miss Parr was my first grade teacher and helped start me toward becoming the superb reader I am today, opening doors to thousands of books I never would have read and to many valuable ideas that I would never have encountered or thought of. She was endlessly patient and loving to me while I struggled in my myopic cocoon of shy self-absorption. I always felt as if she were treating me like a family member. My father and I mowed her lawn for many years thereafter, and I never tired of telling her how much I appreciated what she had done for me. She would humbly refuse to take any personal credit.
Mrs. Reynolds became interested in my writing when I was a junior in high school and encouraged me to write more about ideas I proposed that she found interesting. She spent endless hours editing my writing so I could see how to improve, and while I was in college she happily showed me all of the papers she had saved from when I was in her class. I now frequently write nonfiction books and one of my sons does as well. Without her lessons and encouragement, I doubt if any of my books would have been written.
She also showed our class hundreds of the most beautiful paintings and sculptures in the world and asked us to memorize each artwork’s location, the artist’s name, and the work’s title. As a result, I’m well prepared to make side trips to see some of these artistic treasures whenever I travel near where they are. I also became an art collector, and one of my sons works as a curator in an art museum. I suspect her influences will continue into at least one more generation of our family.
Both teachers were like second mothers to me. I could list dozens of other teachers who had huge positive influences on me. In the interests of space, I won’t list them by name, but my gratitude toward them knows no bounds. I dedicate this chapter to honor them all.
After teaching for many years and learning how my students responded, I came to appreciate that teachers gain tremendous insights into how their students’ learning can be improved. In today’s elementary and secondary schools in the United States, applying those hard-earned insights is often restricted by rigorous requirements to teach very detailed curricula tied to material that students will be tested on during standardized examinations.
When learners and their parents become dissatisfied with their educational experiences and learning, their tendency is to urge that further restrictions be placed on teachers. Limiting teachers is a mistake because outstanding opportunities for encouragement and learning are missed. Leaving decisions about curricula and teaching methods solely up to politicians, university professors, and high-level educational administrators almost always discourages the kind of customized teaching that students would appreciate and benefit from.
What can be done instead? Here’s one possible approach: Some innovative teachers around the world have persevered in gaining special permission to teach required subjects in more appealing ways that enliven student interest and increase understanding. In The 2,000 Percent Solution, Carol Coles, Robert Metz, and I describe an elementary school teacher who realized that youngsters in her age group were almost all fascinated by dinosaurs. Her approach was to teach all of her lessons by including information about dinosaurs. Learning and joy greatly increased for all.
Supplying an energizing context for learning can be made even more valuable than in this example by adding practical content that students will want to use for a lifetime. The potential to gain more from selecting fascinating, value-added content is especially great in nations where children receive little formal education. For instance, improving the context for learning reading and arithmetic can provide continuing benefits such as earning a better living, operating a household in more effective and lower-cost ways, and having more life choices. Such upgrades greatly enhance the value of education in the present and provide benefits for future generations of the student’s family.
One of the greatest gifts a teacher can help provide is to instill such a love of learning that the student races past the curriculum and continues learning on her or his own. Mrs. Reynolds was one of two teachers who inspired me in that way, leading me to climb many years ahead of where my knowledge and understanding would otherwise have reached while I was in high school. With that enhanced foundation, I was able to do difficult, original work in college, law school, and business school that helped prepare me to lead the 400 Year Project. Many teachers have found ways to inspire such self-directed learning by encouraging the students to explore their interests independently beyond the curriculum, and I pray that these methods will be employed more often by more teachers.
Teachers can also help students learn important practical lessons. Most of my graduate school and adult education students, for instance, initially don’t realize how willing most people are to help them to find answers and to accomplish more. I try to fill in that learning gap with assignments that require asking many strangers for assistance.
I was blessed to learn that people are eager to help by writing a letter asking for information from a chamber of commerce in another state’s capital, a task assigned by my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Hendricks. By return mail came such wonderful materials that I was inspired to write forty-nine more letters and to read with fascination every document and brochure I received in response. Since then, I’ve been quick to seek help from experts and ordinary people, even when I couldn’t afford to pay anything for the assistance other than my genuine appreciation and generous thanks. I’ve almost never failed to make much faster and better progress by reaching out for such assistance.
Many students are too comfortable being passive learners, assuming that they cannot add useful knowledge or insights. In my experience, almost any student can advance knowledge. Provide groups of students with useful directions for the right tasks, and some pretty fabulous advances can follow. After such a learning experience, most people will want to help make more knowledge advances and will probably continue to do so.
I believe such knowledge-advancing experiences can begin in elementary school. Here’s an example: Rather than merely repeating famous science experiments, students can do some work with teachers and scientists to design better experiments that will provide new insights and knowledge improvements. If the experiments are later conducted, the results of those experiments can be studied by the students and more novel experiments designed.
I strongly urge all schools to provide opportunities for students to work on creating exponential breakthroughs and to have a chance to test their ideas, to learn from what works and what doesn’t, and to persist with the right resources until they succeed. Making it easier for teachers to provide such learning experiences in making exponential improvements is a key opportunity for tutors to serve teachers and their students.
If a school’s curriculum is so inflexible that breakthrough-seeking tasks cannot be included in formal classes, I urge teachers to provide these learning experiences instead through clubs and after-school activities. I hope that sponsored competitions will also be developed to encourage students to work on breakthroughs, much as some students now prepare science projects to compete in various fairs.
In many schools, teachers have joined with each other in unions to improve their professional practices and to have more influence on educational policies. I believe that teachers’ unions can play a more important role in developing knowledge that prepares students to become breakthrough-creating and -producing adults.
Let’s next shift our focus to consider the various ways that breakthrough tutors can help teachers to give elementary and secondary students the knowledge they lack to experience creating and implementing exponential breakthroughs through the processes developed by the 400 Year Project.
Tutors Can Create Training Materials
to Help Students Make Breakthroughs
by Using 400 Year Project Processes
“Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears,
and fix your mind on everything I show you;
for you were brought here so that I might show them to you.
Declare to the house of Israel everything you see.”
— Ezekiel 40:4 (NKJV)
The first time I read the teacher’s edition of a textbook was quite an eye-opening experience. I discovered that almost all of the brilliance that so wowed me when my teacher shared insights that weren’t in the text was spelled out in the teacher’s edition. After that I always tried to study the teacher’s edition rather than the student’s. I share that observation not to complain about my teachers, but, rather, to demonstrate how powerful training materials can be for lifting the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning.
I am very deficient in the skills needed to prepare teacher’s editions for the 400 Year Project. As a result, some people learning to make breakthroughs have had to struggle with relying on the equivalent of the student edition rather than receiving the kind of advanced insights that a teacher’s edition can provide. The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook is the only 400 Year Project book so far devoted to providing the information needed for easier mastery of making exponential breakthroughs.
I am very excited by the potential for people who are talented in creating training materials to do so for the elementary and secondary teachers who will lead their students to make exponential breakthroughs in knowledge and practices. I also intend to start providing some additional materials that are appropriate for a teacher’s edition in appendixes to this and future books, something I began doing in 2,000 Percent Solution Living.
What might be appropriate subjects for elementary and secondary students employing the exponential improvement practices developed by the 400 Year Project? Because of limited experience with seeing this kind of teaching, I can only offer some impressions, rather than certainty, to guide breakthrough tutors in creating training materials for teachers. Let me describe my assumptions, which are:
• Some elementary school, many middle school, and almost all high school students can assist in some and perform other simple research tasks for teachers and adults who are working on developing and making breakthroughs.
• More capable students can perform research to help locate current best practices and information useful for estimating future best practices and identifying ideal practices.
• Breakthrough methods can be identified and documented by groups of supervised fifth grade and older students through combining many excellent practices that have never been used together in complementary ways.
• Other breakthroughs can be conceived, tested, and implemented by middle school and high school students in lesser developed economies through learning about affordable advanced practices that are appropriate for their environments during online collaborations with adults and students in more advanced economies.
I don’t in any way want to limit or discourage whatever students, their teachers, and supporting tutors choose to work on when seeking breakthroughs; but I find that when presented with new questions (such as how youngsters can help make exponential improvements), many people draw a mental blank that can create a stall that delays moving forward. So let me offer a few suggestions for possible breakthroughs to help set more mental balls rolling smoothly forward toward breakthrough accomplishments:
• Many schools now feature volunteer programs for their students to assist less fortunate children who don’t attend their schools. Some programs raise money, others provide services, and others collect merchandise for distribution. A breakthrough for such a program could be to accomplish the same results with 1/20 the time, money, and effort; 20 times the results with the same time, money, and effort; or some combination of the two (such as 5 times the results with 1/4 the time, money, and effort).
• Some schools have communications programs with schools located in other countries that allow youngsters to get to know one another and each other’s languages and cultures better. A breakthrough for such a program could be to involve twenty times more schools in such exchanges while the school administrations invest no more time, money, and effort. Another possible breakthrough could be to increase communications in each other’s languages by twenty times while teachers expend no more time, money, and effort.
• Schools may also engage in academic enrichment activities such as Webinars and self-paced learning programs online. A breakthrough might be to increase the number of students who actively participate in such programs by twenty times while putting in no more effort to recruit and encourage participation.
• Students may be interested in obtaining better educational outcomes after graduating. A breakthrough might involve long-term counseling by older students and recent graduates to help increase by twenty times the number of graduates who complete college and earn at least one graduate-school degree.
• Students might also wish to give gifts to their school, following a longstanding practice by prior graduating classes. A breakthrough might be to increase the effectiveness of what the gift is used for by twenty times over the most effective prior class gift.
• A charitably oriented school might adopt some existing nonprofit organization (or start a new one of its own) and create a breakthrough by accomplishing twenty times more through that organization than any other school has done before while using no more resources than anyone else.
I’m sure this list has already sparked some good ideas of your own. Bravo! If you feel called to serve as a tutor who creates training materials for helping youngsters learn how to make breakthroughs, I encourage you to start by finding groups of teachers, parents, and students who want to work on a type of improvement that appeals to you. Exploring the subject with those who want to teach and learn is important because the best training materials are filled with relevant, content-rich explanations that make understanding more interesting and easier to achieve.
Investigate what the teachers, parents, and students need to learn before they can be effective. Next, start developing appropriate training materials for teachers and students. Observe the learning in progress as people use your draft materials. Improve those materials based on the results that are obtained by applying them.
Join groups of tutors who are developing training materials for the same and similar kinds of breakthrough improvements and share what you have been working on without limiting its use by anyone else. Test the training material innovations that others have developed and incorporate the successful innovations into your materials. Ask those who use the training materials and the students they teach what else they need and for their suggestions concerning what to do more of and less of.
Let’s look next at the ways tutors can assist teachers who have developed their own methods to help students learn how to make exponential improvements.
Tutors Can Create Training Materials
to Help Students Make Breakthroughs
by Using Processes That Teachers Have Developed
On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things
which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord.
— Acts 21:18-20 (NKJV)
New breakthrough practices are often based on powerful, simplifying insights. Peter Drucker confidently predicted that all of the 400 Year Project processes for making exponential improvements would eventually be supplemented by simpler versions that could be learned faster and applied more easily, and that would provide nearly the same quantity and quality of results. While I often employ such simplifications when developing exponential breakthroughs, I have been reluctant to propose that those new to this activity do the same because I can draw on experiences that they haven’t had.
Someone with less mental baggage than I have will probably find much simpler ways to use the current breakthrough processes. I look forward to that day and to learning from such improvements.
In addition, I doubt if the breakthrough-creating processes that have been identified so far are the only ways to make exponential improvements while applying limited amounts of knowledge, experience, and training. It may well be that a genius youngster will leap directly into a shorter, simpler set of mental steps that are quite different from identifying stalls, stallbusting, the eight-step process, and combining complementary exponential solutions. I welcome and will rejoice in such an accomplishment. No doubt the Holy Spirit will have the dominant role in making such knowledge available, much as I gained the insights I have shared after receiving many heavenly directions.
It’s one thing for a person to understand and to begin using such improved methods. It’s far more difficult to articulate the understanding and experiences so that others can effectively apply the same methods. As I recount in Adventures of an Optimist, I had been using a mental process for making exponential breakthroughs for decades before Peter Drucker challenged me to articulate the process so that others could benefit. Because I was barely aware of my mental processes for developing breakthroughs, I found it to be extremely difficult to explain what I had done. I am not alone in having trouble. Peter told me of a number of people who had developed superior methods that they could not describe to him.
For me, a helpful step was writing a sequential narrative describing the thoughts I had had while developing an exponential improvement. Other innovators should consider creating narratives for their processes. If innovators desire others to learn even more from their experiences, it would also be beneficial for them to keep a journal of daily thoughts while working on breakthroughs that can provide more information for such a narrative.
Writing a narrative about thoughts leading to an exponential improvement can also be difficult for an innovator to do. I struggled with the task at first until Peter Drucker’s questions began to access and organize my memory so that I could recall and re-create more of what had occurred.
When an innovator struggles with writing a narrative, I encourage tutors to engage the innovator in Socratic discussions designed to fill in the boundaries of what thoughts did and did not occur during the innovation. If that practice seems like unfamiliar territory to you, I suggest that you learn about the disciplines applied by intellectual historians. The journal, Modern Intellectual History (Cambridge University Press), contains excellent articles about and examples of using such methods.
After preparing narratives for seven or eight of the innovations I had worked on, the common factors in the steps I had followed became as clear to me as the Rocky Mountains are to airline passengers crossing the contiguous forty-eight of the United States.
An innovator may not need to create that many narratives as I did to find the lessons. Yet another innovator may need to prepare even more narratives. The important point is to keep going until patterns appear to the innovator and to the tutor who is helping with the documentation.
A good next step is for the innovator to describe the identified steps to a few people who are interested in the subject to see what they do and don’t understand. Don’t be surprised if the learners initially have no idea what the innovator is talking or writing about. It took me months just to get to the point where I could encapsulate the subject of making breakthroughs into the concept of exponential improvements, something most people can grasp pretty quickly when I describe in detail a 2,000 percent solution’s use of resources and its effects.
In order to improve understanding of innovative processes, I highly recommend employing brief stories that illustrate each process step. I find the lessons described in The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling (Jossey-Bass, 2005) by Stephen Denning to be very helpful in selecting and framing the stories that I use for explanatory purposes.
At whatever point the innovator and the tutor believe that they have captured the process in understandable ways, the acid test will be for someone with no experience to employ that process after receiving appropriate training and support materials. With each observation of their use, the training and materials should be adjusted to eliminate or reduce problems experienced by people new to the process.
I continued to learn a lot about how to make the 2,000 percent solution process easier to employ while observing the first forty people I taught. Whenever the rate of new lessons being learned about how to make the process easier to use slow down a lot, it’s a good time to create a workbook to structure the process a bit more. Such a workbook will probably be most valuable if it contains a detailed example of someone using the workbook’s methods.
Innovators and tutors should remain open to receiving suggestions for improvements from others and to noticing when what they describe is applied in unexpected ways. While I long appreciated that complementary 2,000 percent solutions could be exponentially more valuable, some of my students and readers grasped more of the implications than I did. After seeing their perspectives on how much faster and better the complementary solutions approach was, I did a lot of new work in The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution and Adventures of an Optimist to point to this way of gaining even greater results.
The first students who attempted to apply the practices described in the two books further opened my eyes to how much more could be achieved. As a result, I have developed some much more advanced practices that I have not yet described nor trained anyone to use. Documenting these practices is planned for 2012. When that work is complete, I fully expect that the first learners will create even more astonishing improvements that will exceed my very high expectations; I will need, in turn, to capture those insights and practices for others to use.
I believe that tutors can play an important role in assisting the teachers who develop improved methods for making breakthroughs to speed such generations of process improvements for and to help other teachers learn how to use the existing processes for creating exponential improvements. If someone would like to play either tutoring role with me, I would be grateful.
Let’s shift now to considering how tutors can assist teachers’ unions to make greater contributions in preparing students to make valuable exponential improvements.
Tutors Can Assist Teachers’ Unions
in Advocating Ways Students Can Be Better Prepared
to Make Breakthroughs
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ,
if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit,
if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded,
having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
— Philippians 2:1-3 (NKJV)
While I continue to use the term “tutors” in this part of the chapter, more appropriate terms here might be “researchers” and “assistants.” Teachers’ unions can draw on enormous amounts of expertise and influence, and it would be unjustified to assume that those who are expert in creating exponential improvements will be able to serve as tutors in advocating better ways to better prepare students to gain this expertise. Teachers’ unions also have had a lot of success in advocacy, and their expertise in how to frame and to carry messages about educational methods to the public are usually going to be decisive.
I see four possible roles for tutors to assist the unions:
• identifying practices that have worked well for preparing students to make exponential improvements
• documenting those practices so that they can be described more accurately and understandably
• assisting with trials of methods that the unions are interested in understanding more about
• researching educational decision makers’ beliefs to identify what misunderstandings exist about how teachers can help students to learn and to accomplish more
To identify practices that have worked well, it will be highly desirable for tutors to share information about their experiences and observations with one another. Tutors should be careful to check out each case very carefully so that the union’s scarce resources aren’t misapplied to studying or advocating what doesn’t help very much with preparing students to make breakthroughs.
I strongly urge tutors to develop a standard protocol for documenting learning methods. Such standardization will help ensure that the necessary information is developed while also making it easier to compare examples with one another. Otherwise, little more than anecdotes will be available, which will be hard for anyone to draw useful lessons from.
Tutor should be careful to avoid trying to direct such teachers’ union activities. The teachers should be sure to take the lead with the tutors simply supporting them. In this way, better ideas will emerge and all teachers will feel more encouraged to support and apply whatever methods emerge.
Schools and churches aren’t the only places where youngsters can learn about the importance of and how to make exponential improvements. In Chapter Six, we look at a number of voluntary associations designed for youngsters to investigate how these organizations can be helped by tutors to accomplish more.
Copyright © 2011 by Donald W. Mitchell. All rights reserved.