Saturday, January 28, 2012

Seeing the Brilliance in Children

I have come to realize that school administrators and teachers are actually diamond cutters. Recently, in an academy workshop for aspiring superintendents, I posed my usual question as we explored marketing, branding, and communication concepts: “Why should I enroll my child in your schools?” One answer I got back was unexpected, and absolutely brilliant.

Most administrators usually give me standard statements about safety, rigor, test scores, accountability, and quality teaching. However, one very dedicated and creative principal from San Francisco USD simply said, “We believe all of our students are brilliant!”

As I mulled this over you could almost see a cartoon light bulb go off over my head. He was creating a culture in his school focused on the amazing concept that his students shine with inner star-like qualities while at the same time being capable of achieving to high levels. He explained that his job as a leader was to bring out both facets of brilliance in every child. I clearly saw that he was an educational diamond cutter. What a terrific brand for his school. Absolutely brilliant!

The word “diamond” comes from the Ancient Greek word for “unbreakable.” They say diamonds are forever; they last because they are forged from carbon placed under tremendous pressure deep in the Earth. From the most extraordinary conditions and circumstances one of the strongest elements on the planet is produced.

There is no doubt that our children are growing up in perilous times in a world filled with pressure, uncertainty, and a host of daunting problems. Since we can now simulate the diamond-making process in the laboratory, shouldn’t we be able to do the same in America’s classrooms?  Each day, our “little lumps of coal” and the educators that serve them are put to the test under tremendous pressure. If we can transform students into diamonds then their skills will last a lifetime. We will make them “unbreakable” so they can pass on their brilliance to make a better society for generations to come.

We judge the quality of a diamond by its four C’s. While high grades of color, clarity, and carat weight contribute to a diamond's appeal, it's the cut that determines the symmetry of the stone's facets, its overall proportions, and its ability to reflect light. An expertly cut diamond will achieve high levels of brilliance, sparkle, and durability. Even if a diamond is graded well in other areas, a poor cut can result in a dull, muted effect. The “cut” is what adds value to an otherwise lifeless piece of crystal. Our “cut” in public education is quality teaching and quality leading.

Do the educators and leaders in your schools practice and perfect their craft to make sure that each facet of a student’s education is flawless? As they create the many faces of a child’s education are they bringing out the inner fire and innate brilliance that every child brings to school each day?

We know that one slip by the cutter can ruin a diamond. It takes skill, patience, and experience to unlock the inner brilliance in a gemstone so it reflects, refracts and disperses illuminating light with a dazzling sparkle. Teaching, like diamond cutting, is a work of art. When done well, it creates timeless beauty. As communicators our privilege is to shine the light so the diamonds (even in the rough sometimes) can show their brilliance for everyone to see, admire and value.

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