By Luke McKenna

Recently Dave Ramsey spoke about “excellence in the ordinary”. He introduced me to the phrase: doing work that matters with excellence and joy.  As an educator, does our work really matter- You BETCHA! And I can think of literally hundreds of teachers who do the meaningful work of education with excellence and joy.


As educators, we have the privilege to work with many people- particularly our colleagues, students and their families. People remember the little things about their interactions with us. How we made them feel, how we cared for them, how we respectfully challenged them to become more, how we believed in them, how we redirected them. It’s not usually about one defining moment or incredible lesson that we deliver- it’s doing work that matters with excellence and joy. Excellence in the ordinary.

Do we notice a visible change in all of our students as a result of our impact every single time we do a playground duty? Unlikely. But we go to playground duty anyway. And we should strive to do it with excellence. Does every parent phone call or meeting lead to lasting change in student behaviour and application? Once again, that’s unlikely. But we do it anyway. And we should do it with excellence.

As a teacher, educator, leader in a school- what does it mean to do work that matters, with excellence and joy? It got me thinking about what this means for myself as an educator. What might it mean for you as a teacher or leader in a school?

How can we live out this notion of excellence in the ordinary?

As an educator…

It’s about doing the little things well. Valuing ourselves and the contributions we make each day. We make an impact each day through the little things- Attention to detail; Respect for our colleagues; Refining the lesson plan; Being prepared; Being on time; Giving feedback with excellence; Greeting students by name; Allowing for differentiated learning within our classroom; Planning our meetings with colleagues, parents or students to ensure that we respect the time of all involved and make them effective; Smiling; Caring; Doing it all with excellence. Bringing the best version of ourselves- in our attitude and energy- to every day. What would it look like to do a playground duty with excellence? Can we teach with excellence?

In our relationships…

Can we give our children and our spouses the attention and focus they need? Can we really be present? Will we put down our phones and be with the people we love? In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “wherever you are, be there”. Be there with excellence. Can we listen for understanding? Can we listen with excellence? Can we strive for excellence in our relationships? What is one thing I could do to be excellent in my relationships?

For students…

Can our students live with excellence too? What does it mean to learn with excellence? Turning up on time. Getting all the equipment they need for class. Being respectful. Focussing each day on the class work. Excellence in their behaviour, uniform, their treatment of each other. Excellence in their attitude. How can they be excellent in the every day of school life. Doing school with excellence.

For student leaders… Excellence in their example, service, action. Excellence in their uniform and conduct. Excellence in their attitude, presentation, communication. Empowering others, respecting others. Doing leadership with excellence.

The challenge is not a small one.

In order to progress, we don’t need excellence in the extraordinary things. Instead- excellence in the ordinary. It is not always easy to do, but it is important that we keep stretching ourselves to make a contribution in the little things. That’s excellence in the ordinary.

Doing work that matters with excellence and joy. Keep on doing it in 2017.

That’s my two cents worth, but what do you think?

What does excellence in the ordinary mean to you?

Feel free to email me back with your thoughts, or share this with your colleagues.