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If You Aren’t Celebrating Growth, Are You Growing?

March 20, 2019

By: Laura Hilger

If we don’t celebrate in front of and with our learners, who will?

I am not talking about the parties that we throw for retirement and birthdays or for sports, as we are very good at that. When I ask learners how they celebrate at school, they go straight to the classroom party as an example, and that is typically based on either someone’s birthday or it is part of a reward-based process. Celebrating in an impactful way is part of a process, of our efforts to plan-do-check-adjust. When we do this, we aren’t fixating on our failures, we’re analyzing our successes and failures as celebrations so that we know what to do better next time. It is about using the data we gather for growth: growth in ourselves and growth in our learning communities.

So, what do we mean by an impactful celebration? A celebration that means something to our learning communities is:

  • Learner-centered
  • Focused on growth
  • Embedded and aligned to goals and the goal setting process
  • Practiced consistently
  • Processes and procedures are in place to celebrate growth throughout the learning community

There are many ways we can challenge ourselves to get better, like getting a coach, practicing relentlessly and monitoring our specific goal with intentionality, but along the way, we must celebrate.

The common thread that links the design process, rapid cycle improvement and many other goal setting processes is that it is about the journey of trying. But when we don’t stop to reflect about the small wins or see progress as a celebration, what message are we sending to our organizations or learners? Rather than analyzing the lack of progress all the time, why can’t we have cultures that lift up the progress that we are making? Consider:

If we ______________ we will see ______________.
I am noticing this because I ______________.
We are seeing this because we ______________.
That near win is a direct result of ______________.
That percentage increase will give us ______________.

I wish we could change the language we use around goal setting to be goal getting and goal trying because for most of our life, we are a near-win, an incomplete experiment if you will, that is trying to become better and better. We are never done teaching and learning about teaching and learning. That is the ultimate lesson that we should be modeling for our learners.


Laura Hilger
Senior Director of Teaching and Learning

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